This Week's Message
This summer seven students conducted research at the Texas Medical Center through a program established by Heidi Storl. We asked senior Sven Steen to reflect on his experience.
U.S. News and World Report recently ranked M. D. Anderson Cancer Center the number one hospital in the United States for cancer medicine. This past summer seven Augustana seniors had the opportunity to participate in research at M. D. Anderson and other Texas Medical Center affiliated hospitals and labs. I was fortunate to be among them. For many (if not all) of us it was our first such experience.
For me personally, it was an opportunity to experience cancer medicine and actively participate in clinical research at a research one institution. In my time at Augustana I have developed an interest in physics and see radiation oncology as one area in which I might be able to pair my desire for a career in medicine with further experience in physics. However, I had a number of questions and concerns about radiation oncology. My internship at M. D. Anderson gave me the opportunity to answer many of these.
I met weekly with head and neck cancer patients while they were going through radiation. I saw firsthand the physical and psychological effects of treatment. As salivary glands dry up, simple tasks such as eating become monumental tasks for otherwise healthy individuals in a matter of three weeks. Through a program called project PREPARE, my mentor and I shared tips, recipes, recommendations, and stories from former patients with our current participants and their caregivers. To see the devastating physical effects of cancer on individuals whose spirits remained strong was a very humbling experience.
One goal of the PREPARE program was to encourage adherence to a swallowing exercise program that combats the development of scar tissue, leading to long-term swallowing problems. Interestingly, though M. D. Anderson regularly prescribes these exercises, there currently exists no published research to support their long-term effectiveness. I worked directly with my mentor, the primary investigator on this initiative, to gather data and develop a manuscript in support of these exercises. As part of this effort, I consulted with physicians who (quite literally) wrote the book on head and neck cancer treatment. I also helped my mentor to streamline the data collection process, using concepts I have been exposed to through my business major. This was a great experience for me to be able to see a tangible connection between my two majors in practice. Interning at M. D. Anderson gave me a much better perspective on the career I intend to pursue and how I might be able to integrate my interests and abilities in the future.
'09 Texas Medical Center Summer Intern
Pre-Medicine & Business Management