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Love Tsai started working at OrACORe in July 2023 after graduating from Dartmouth College with a BA in Mathematics and a minor in public policy. In 2020, Love interned with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) to secure real estate for performing arts organizations and combat gentrification in San Francisco. A summer position took her to Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital where Love investigated the genetics of Hidradenitis suppurativa using mouse models. Love traveled to Germany in 2022 for an internship in mathematics with the Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics. Her research focused on developing a mathematical equation that would model diffusion across the smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum. Beyond academia, Love coordinated programming for Dartmouth students to work with adults with dementia at an assisted living facility and performed with the Dartmouth Dance Group Ujima. Outside of work at OrACORe, Love volunteers with Horizons for Homeless Children as a play space activity leader (PAL). In her role as a PAL, Love acts as a mentor to children living in homeless shelters.

A photo of Love at her graduation with her mother. Photo courtesy of Love Tsai.

What about this research position attracted you to it?

I was attracted to the Health Policy and Clinical Research Assistant position at OrACORe because it seemed like a perfect fit between my interest in mathematics and my passion for making healthcare more accessible through policy. I studied mathematics and public policy in college, where I became very interested in using numbers to tell a story that can then guide policy formulation and implementation. Since I am pre-med, I was looking for a position where I can learn how to optimize healthcare to be more efficient and equitable, especially since we often have incomplete information or a lack of resources. In applying for the role, I knew I would be able to gain not only a hands-on clinical experience, but also a deep understanding of what computational and health policy research entails. These factors made this research position an ideal one for me, especially as I apply to graduate school and prepare for my next steps.

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

No day looks the same for me at OrACORe. I am currently assigned to three projects: OAPol, FraPol, and TOPS. A large portion of my week is devoted to OAPol, which is our Monte-Carlo simulation of knee osteoarthritis (OA). I’ve worked on modeling clinically accurate pain trajectories, translating simulations between different time scales, and deriving input data, which helps us model a more accurate “subject” with OA in OAPol. I am excited to begin work on MeTeOR using the model soon. FraPol is our model of frailty in people living with HIV; this project is in its beginning stages, and I’ve been able to help with model structure design.

For the clinical side of my position, I facilitate participant assessments for TOPS, which is a randomized clinical trial that will compare the association between a weight loss and exercise intervention and the prevention of the development of knee osteoarthritis. Come November, I’ll be screening potential study subjects, and conducting baseline study visits with our participants, and I am looking forward to going to the clinic regularly! The workweek is always exciting and full of different things to do and learn.

Photo of Love volunteering at an assisted living home with her ballet studio. Photo courtesy of Love Tsai.

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

As corny as it sounds, it really is hard to pick one favorite thing about being a research assistant at OrACORe. I feel very blessed in that I not only get to work in a field I am personally very invested in, but that I am in a position where I am also surrounded by amazing coworkers, extremely supportive supervisors, and intelligent, driven people everywhere I turn. The past two months already have been tremendous times of personal growth for me as well, as I navigate life post-college. I am excited to continue learning and growing with everyone during the rest of my tenure here.

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?

The healthcare system in the United States is extremely large and complex. The machine that is academic medicine was even more of a black box to me before starting work. In the past month, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how clinical research is performed and what working toward medical innovation looks like on a daily basis. I’ve gotten the opportunity to shadow physicians in clinic, attend seminars, connect with like-minded people, and grow in my own research and problem-solving skills. My experiences working at OrACORe thus far have deepened my understanding of what it means to work in health care and where I see myself in the future.

A photo of Love (pictured front and center) with her dance group Ujima. Photo courtesy of Love Tsai.

What are your plans post-OrACORe?

Coming into OrACORe, I already knew that I wanted to apply to medical school. Right now, I am also considering a joint degree and am navigating this with our faculty. Check back in two years to see what I end up doing!

What makes you laugh the most these days?

My coworkers! We are a very diverse group of personalities, and I am continually amazed by how funny everyone is. It can be hard to move to a new city and start over after graduating college, but they have all made it the smoothest transition I can ask for. If you want to hear about the best items at Trader Joe’s, one coworker’s complete unawareness of pop culture references, or all the moments of desperation I’ve personally faced while trying to climb the hills in Mission Hill, I’m sure you’d also fit right in.

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