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6 Questions for First-Year Research Assistants: Julia Gottreich

Julia started working at OrACORe in June of 2021 after graduating from Bowdoin College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. In the summer of 2019, Julia worked in the Andersen Lab at Northwestern University on a project to build the wild-type library of C. elegans for future genetic research. During the summer of 2020, Julia worked as the volunteer coordinator for Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that provides healthy and affordable meat and produce boxes to community members of Chicago residing in food deserts. Outside of school, Julia played for the Bowdoin Women’s Varsity field hockey team and volunteered with Big Brother, Big Sister of Brunswick and Bath, Maine.

Julia at the Giant Steps in Northern Ireland during her study abroad experience in the spring of 2020. Photo courtesy of Julia Gottreich.

1. What about this research position attracted you to it?

I knew that I wanted to pursue a job in clinical research after graduating from college, and I was drawn to the position at OrACORe because of the opportunity to be involved in multiple studies and to receive incredible mentorship from our principal investigators. My interests in sports medicine and orthopedics also aligned well with OrACORe’s projects.

2. What’s a typical week on the job for you?

During a typical week, I spend about two days planning and coordinating our new project entitled Corticosteroid Meniscectomy Randomized Trial (CoMeT). Compared to a placebo injection, CoMeT investigates the effectiveness, determined by knee pain relief, of extended-release corticosteroid injections administered into the knee at the end of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy procedures. For this trial, I am also working on a report that will analyze how different cartilage and inflammatory biomarkers collected from the synovial tissue are associated with pain outcomes after arthroscopic knee surgery. The other days are dedicated to recruiting and enrolling potential participants in the TeMPO study as well as scheduling and conducting study visits for the ORBIT and MeTeOR follow-up studies. Working on multiple projects simultaneously means no two days, or weeks, feel the same!

3. What do you like most about being a research assistant at OrACORe?

My favorite part of being a research assistant at OrACORe is the study visits for TeMPO, ORBIT and MeTeOR. During these visits I get the chance to connect with participants and hear their stories, which has given me a greater appreciation for patient care. Besides the study visits, I have had opportunities to shadow our OrACORe physician-researchers, Drs. Katz and Jones. While shadowing, I have learned about a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and psoriatic arthritis, which has confirmed my interest and love for medicine. I also enjoy the office culture within OrACORe because we value teamwork and community. Having the opportunity to work with the other research assistants and physicians within the orthopaedics department makes this job very intellectually stimulating.

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?

In the past month, I have been working closely with Dr. Jones to launch CoMeT at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This study will measure biomarkers sampled from patients with knee osteoarthritis and meniscal tears to determine whether they are associated with patient outcomes in the treatment group. RNA sequencing is one method that will be used to analyze genetic expression profiles in cells from synovial tissue, or connective tissue that surrounds the joints. This laboratory technique, and others like it, are constantly evolving with the end goal of improving the lives of patients who may undergo arthroscopic knee surgeries by providing scientists a greater understanding of genetic markers released within the synovia. It may ultimately lead to more patient-specific treatments. Learning about these techniques and their potential impact on patient outcomes is changing the way I think about health care—I now see a direct connection between wet lab benchwork and patient care, which makes me appreciative of the role that laboratory techniques and research methodology play in medicine. The intersection between research and clinical practice makes me excited for a career in medicine!

Julia (center) pictured with her field hockey class. Photo courtesy of Julia Gottreich.

5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?

I am currently studying for the MCAT and planning to apply to medical school next year. Working at OrACORe has confirmed that I plan to be a Clinician Researcher and I hope to be involved with studies that investigate treatments that improve patient care and outcomes.

6. How are you engaging with your community outside of work?

Outside of work, I am a cross-country coach at a community service program called Youth Enrichment Services (YES). YES serves over 1,600 youth and the volunteers support these young people through outdoor sports. We meet once a week in South Boston for practice. Additionally, some of the other RAs and I have joined Boston Cares, an agency that connects volunteers throughout the city of Boston with local schools and non-profit groups seeking volunteer support. Boston Cares works with organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank to prepare food boxes for members of the community that lack access.

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