Hanna Mass began working as an OrACORe research assistant in the summer of 2021 after…
6 QUESTIONS FOR FIRST-YEAR RESEARCH ASSISTANTS: CATHY YANG
Cathy joined OrACORe in July 2022 after graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Mathematics. In 2019, Cathy interned at a nephrology lab at Columbia University that investigated low nephron numbers in newborn mice and observed the dynamics of autophagy (cell death) in the proximal tubule of the kidney. After returning to her home state of New Jersey during the surge of COVID-19 in March 2020, Cathy volunteered at her local EMS squad and became a counselor at her local church. At Wellesley, Cathy was the captain of her squash team and a teacher’s assistant for linear algebra. Outside of work, Cathy plays racket sports, such as squash and tennis, and she also finds time to play chess.
1. What about this research position attracted you to it?
During college, I developed a passion for medicine and data-analysis. OrACORe turned out to be the perfect opportunity to pursue the integration of both areas. OrACORe is engaged in many different research projects; whether it is broader level health-policy research, such as FraPol or OAPol, or clinically focused projects, such as BriCC and INFORM, there’s always something new to learn about medical research. OrACORe also offers terrific mentorship opportunities and the chance to meet other people with similar interests, which also drew me in!
2. What’s a typical week on the job for you?
My typical week is a combination of interacting with study participants and working on one of the health policy studies. I spend a portion of the week screening and recruiting patients for INFORM. For this project, I meet with interested study participants, obtain informed consent, and perform a sensitivity assessment to better understand their response to different pressure stimuli. When I am not interacting with study participants, I work on remaining projects, and each week brings a different priority. For example, I recently worked on an OAPol grant submission and I have been updating data related to the model. For BriCC, I have been preparing materials and documents for a Patient Preference Assessment study that will launch this winter. For FraPol, I have been investigating possible data sources that may be incorporated into our model. I also have check-ins scattered throughout the week and opportunities to listen to research talks and lectures!
3. What do you like most about being a research assistant at OrACORe?
There is always opportunity to learn here! Whether it is from working on a project with fellow research assistants, talking with physicians, or even writing a grant, being surrounded by so many intelligent, passionate researchers has taught me so much about medicine and research. For example, I started at OrACORe with no background or experience in orthopedics to learning how to examine knee X-rays, understand knee osteoarthritis treatments and interventions, and more. I am also being exposed to grant writing and how to write standardized study protocols, all new areas of learning that are incredibly valuable.
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?
Before working here, I knew nothing about orthopedics and never considered it. However, the reality of conditions such as osteoarthritis became much more apparent to me. I remember when one of our physicians presented on knee osteoarthritis and mentioned that there are currently no effective disease-modifying treatments for the disease; the only option is surgery to replace the knee completely. I remember being shocked by the limited number of options available for treating osteoarthritis, especially after witnessing the pain that patients with osteoarthritis experience almost daily. It made me realize that there is still so much research that needs to be done, and that the research that is currently happening can have huge effects on the medical field. I have learned that even the smallest procedural changes to treatments can potentially impact a patient’s life and that research is vital to understanding such changes.
5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?
I hope to attend medical school after OrACORe. OrACORe has shown me how intertwined clinical research and medicine are – I hope to also integrate clinical research into my passion for medicine in the future!
6. What makes you laugh the most these days?
Whenever I spend time with my friends, I never stop smiling. Whether we are simply eating together, playing Settlers of Catan, playing tennis/squash, or watching random shows, we always have a good time. I also have 4 cats who provide endless entertainment!