This is the second in a series of interviews we are conducting with each of our first-year research assistants about their OrACORe experience so far.
Aleks Kostic joined OrACORe as a research assistant after graduating from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in Dance in 2020. The summer after her freshman year she worked in a lab at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC working on an app that helped to visualize CT and MRI scans in three dimensions. The following summer, Aleks participated in research looking for novel viral genomes amongst a large metagenomics dataset. Outside of the classroom, she was a part of many dance performances through the student group eXpressions, and joined Princeton’s powerlifting team her junior year.
1. What about this research position attracted you to it?
The first thing that drew me in was the field OrACORe does research in; I am really interested in sports medicine and orthopedics. I was also excited about the OAPol project, which would give me the opportunity to use some of my more quantitative computer science skills. I had never worked on health policy projects before, and this position promised to teach me a lot about this pivotal aspect of our health care systems.
2. What’s a typical week on the job for you?
I have two TeMPO clinic days, where I get to interact with physicians and patients, and perform musculoskeletal exams and quantitative sensory testing. The rest of the time I am working on other projects like OAPol, which so far has involved helping with a manuscript revision on the cost effectiveness of total knee replacement in patients with morbid obesity. I’ve also started work on the KArAT project, and as part of the data management team, I’m working on gathering data from Fitbits and ActiGraphs, as well as deciding how to track all the events that occur throughout a participant’s involvement in the trial.
3. What do you like most about being a research assistant at OrACORe?
I like all of it. I love seeing patients and hearing their personal stories, but I also enjoy zooming out to see the broader picture in my more quantitative projects. Before starting here, I hadn’t had the chance to see how the research I was working on would affect individuals, as I was mostly coding at my desk. Sometimes I do end up at my desk all day, but the days on which I get to interact with subjects remind me of the purpose of the other days, and make me enjoy them a lot more! The OrACORe community is also amazing; the dedication and positivity I see every day are really special.
4. What’s one thing you’ve learned in the past month here that either changed the way you understand health care or influenced you in some other way?
Seeing the way that clinic has changed in response to COVID has been enlightening. The procedures put into place protect both patients and providers. An orthopedic surgeon’s main job may be to see a patient for their knee and hip pain, but it is also to ensure the overall health of their patients, which also requires taking care of themselves and their colleagues. Although it seems like telehealth has gained popularity, the number of patients that still come to clinic in person makes me think that some personal component of medical care will always depend on in person interaction. From my experience interacting with patients and their surgeons, I can imagine that physicians feel the same way, and I can’t wait to continue seeing patients in evolving capacities throughout my life.
5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?
I plan to go to medical school in the summer of 2022. Through my involvement in powerlifting, as well as my senior project (where I studied the associations between knee cave and plantar pressure during squatting motions), I discovered my interest in sports medicine. The longer I work at OrACORe, the more I understand the potential for research in this field, and I hope to pursue research in addition to a clinical career.
6. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your experience starting at OrACORe?
It has been different than any other onboarding I have gone through, but things have gone really well. Everything was well organized; OrACORe did a fantastic job altering their existing training materials to fit a virtual onboarding. It was obviously a little harder to teach us things that needed to be done around the office in person, so those came a little slower, as they were needed. Everyone, but especially the second-year research assistants, made a large effort to make sure we felt like part of the community, and they were successful!