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A photo of Lily in her graduation garments. Photo courtesy of Lily Waddell.

Lily began working at OrACORe in July 2022 after graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in Biology. Pre-COVID-19 pandemic, Lily interned with the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative where she helped to create and analyze a database of genomic tumor testing for >1000 patients enrolled within the Initiative. During the pandemic, Lily switched gears and volunteered at her local vaccination clinic in Bangor, ME, and also delivered lunches to guests at a domestic violence shelter. After returning to campus, Lily worked with a professor at the Geisel School of Medicine to transcribe and study a manuscript of 18th– and 19th-century death records for the town of Hanover, NH. Lily was also a member of the varsity women’s rugby team at Dartmouth, which won NCAA Division I national championships in 2018 and 2021.

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

I knew that I wanted to get involved in clinical research after graduating from college, and I was drawn to this job because of the opportunity to be involved in multiple research studies, interact with study participants, and receive invaluable mentorship from the senior OrACORe staff. Most of the research I was involved with in college was independent, and so I also really liked that OrACORe employs a number of RAs, meaning that I get the opportunity to work a lot with people around my age who are also interested in pursuing a medical career.

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

No two weeks at OrACORe look the same for me! I am currently involved in five research studies, all in various stages of development and trial execution. Each day, I usually spend some time screening patients for the CoMeT study, which has begun active recruitment of subjects. On the other end of the spectrum, I also work on the TeMPO and ORBIT studies that have completed enrollment and are in the process of planning or conducting follow-up activities. Lastly, we are working on developing a protocol and conducting preliminary studies for the PIKASO trial, a placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial that will assess the efficacy of metformin in preventing post-traumatic osteoarthritis after ACL reconstruction. Aside from these projects, I am also working on a narrative review comparing measures of pain and functional status following surgical intervention for musculoskeletal disorders, as well as a follow-up report of concerning findings on MRI within the cohort of TeMPO participants.

A photo of Lily with her parents. Photo courtesy of Lily Waddell.

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

So far, I have loved being able to work on multiple projects because it has meant that I’ve gotten exposure to clinical studies (trials and cohorts) at all stages of development and execution, from protocol design, to grant writing, to recruitment, data cleaning, and follow-up. By far, though, the best part of my job at OrACORe is the people. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by great mentors, as well as the other research assistants, whom I’m lucky to call my friends. I love having a job that makes me excited to get out of bed and start the day.

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 coming to OrACORe, I didn’t have much experience with direct patient/participant interaction, but through my work on TeMPO, ORBIT, and now COMET, I’ve gotten to interact with study participants quite a bit. I’ve been surprised by how much participants enjoy just getting to talk to someone about their life and health, and I feel very privileged to listen to their stories. This position has reaffirmed my interest in pursuing medicine and made me think I might enjoy a specialty like rheumatology, where I can form long-term relationships with patients.

5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?

I took the MCAT last summer and am planning to apply to medical school in the 2023-2024 cycle. It has been very helpful to talk to the second-year RAs about the entire application process. My work at OrACORe has encouraged me to stay engaged with clinical research into medical school and beyond.

6. What makes you laugh the most these days?

That’s easy—definitely my family. My older sister is in her third year of medical school at Brown University, and she always has entertaining stories from her clinical rotations. With both of us out of the house now, my parents are empty nesters. I love getting goofy pictures from them of our family dog, who truly runs the household, or selfies from their travels.

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