Bhushan is a former OrACORe research assistant and a current MD candidate at Harvard Medical School (HMS). He spoke with me about his plans and research experiences, before and after OrACORe.
ECL: What have you been doing since you left OrACORe?
BD: I was a research assistant from January 2014 to July 2016 and then started medical school at HMS in August 2016. Right now, I am wrapping up my second year, which means I have done one year of preclinical classroom work and just about one year of core clinical rotations.
ECL: Any general reflections on medical school so far?
BD: I have loved it! Going into med school I was prepared on some levels, but on most levels, I was totally unprepared. I think that’s typical. From working in clinical research, I understood that there are always a million things going on in a hospital. But even though I knew that intellectually, the hospital environment was overwhelming at first.
ECL: Leaving OrACORe meant leaving a pure research role to seek out clinical training. How have your attitudes toward research evolved?
BD: My interest in research hasn’t wavered, but my perspective has changed. Back in 2014, I knew I was interested in clinical epidemiology. That interest only grew during my time at OrACORe. But now, I’m gaining a more intuitive sense for how clinicians identify important clinical research questions. You can, of course, identify research questions without ever seeing patients. But being in clinical settings helps me see a broader scope of practices and decisions that need research to support their efficacy. In every clinical encounter you can always find some aspect where you stop and think, “Do we really have an evidence base for this?”
ECL: So does that motivate you to continue along both paths—research and clinical practice?
BD: It does. I hope to continue both. I want to have a better sense of my clinical focus first, and choose my research goals with that in mind. But I have plenty of classmates who are doing it in the opposite order.
ECL: What were some of the things that you learned at OrACORe that you weren’t expecting to get exposure to or enjoy?
BD: Clinical trial planning. I worked on a project led by Hannah Kerman, another OrACORe RA, when we were planning enrollment for the TeMPO Trial (now funded and ongoing). One key question when planning a trial is, would it really be feasible to recruit in our clinics? So to answer that, we conducted a pilot to understand the population of potential subjects for the trial: their demographics, the volume coming through our clinics, and what percent would likely be interested in participating. There is so much advance planning required to ensure that a trial can meet its goals and collect useful data to answer the study questions.
ECL: On that note, how does it feel to see the TeMPO Trial underway, years after you worked on the planning and securing funding?
BD: I enjoy hearing about the milestones you’ve been hitting, from notice of funding to IRB approvals at all sites to enrolling the first participants. But the day-to-day realities are now up to you and the other current OrACORe staff! The life cycle of a trial like this is much longer than my tenure was—that’s something we’ve all had to accept about clinical research.
ECL: What do you miss the most about OrACORe?
BD: I had the most amazing mentorship at OrACORe, which has continued even after I left the lab. And that speaks to the strong community we have there. I think it is the community that I miss the most. Just recently, I was talking with two other OrACORe alumni, both also in medical school. We agreed that having early exposure to clinical research had a huge effect on how we view our careers and our continued commitment to integrating research and clinical practice.