The main activities that my STEP Project entailed were data collection from study participants. Following this I would enter the collected information into our database where it would later be analyzed.
When doing my STEP Project, I allowed myself to be open to the different situations that my patients we dealing with. I was able to see that cancer is more than just a condition that people have, it is a journey. It is something that changes their life and perspective on everything and person that they encounter. Despite many of them being in literal life or death situations, they managed to find the good in everything. Likewise, seeing this attitude in my patients gave me different outlook on my own experiences with life. I was already a fairly positive person but because of this project I have learned to mix both realism and optimism to achieve happiness and enlightenment.
During my project, there were a number of moments that made me want to continue on my path to the medical field. Whether they were wake up calls or just moments that fueled my passion, every second spent doing research has made me hungry to make a career out of this in the near future.
Originally, there were two branches to the study that was being conducted. One branch was the breast cancer population and the other was the leukemia population. The leukemia population was my main focus and after the graduation of our lead research assistant, I was put in charge of it. This was a great opportunity for me to develop organizational and leadership skills. Little did I know, this opportunity would help me develop emotional maturity too.
Specifically, there were a number of patients that I grew close to in my time working on the leukemia study. When I first started, I was nervous and wanted to do everything right when it came to informing the patients on what they needed to know to participate in the research study. As I grew more comfortable, interactions became more fluid. I found myself having very casual conversations with the patients and eventually talking with them became second nature. Some patients even began to have deep personal conversations with me, often venting about anything from their medical status to family issues. But in the midst of these fulfilling situations, the patients were still very sick. Over time, more and more patients were in critical condition and ended up in hospice. Some of them even died before going to hospice. As a result, we had to end the leukemia study due to the lack of participant continuation.
For the sake of being concise, I only spoke of the ending of the leukemia study as being transformational for me. Since then, I have began working on the breast cancer study and that too has given me both challenges and rewards. Nevertheless, all of these situations have better prepared me for my future as a physician. I will need to have the knowledge, but above all it will be the experience and intangible “people skills” that will allow me to give my future patients the best quality of care possible. The diverse populations I have worked with and each of their individual situations have proven to be extremely valuable to me. They have taught me so many things to excel in my career and in life in general. With that being said, I am very grateful for the STEP Program as it has allowed me to make the most of my research experience.
Due to the nature of my project, I could not take pictures while at work due to confidentiality clauses/HIPAA. However, a colleague of mine was able to get a candid picture of me during some down time.