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6 Questions for First-Year Research Assistants: Maame Opare-Addo

Maame joined OrACORe in June 2021 following graduation from Tufts University with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology in May 2021. In her junior and senior years, Maame tutored for the Tufts Student Accessibility and Academic Resources (STAAR) center as a Head Tutor in both general and organic chemistry. During her senior year, she interned at the Cambridge Health Alliance where she interviewed individuals experiencing food insecurity in the Boston area. Outside of the classroom, Maame was the Co-President of the Minority Association of Pre-Health students, a peer mentor for the Tufts Africana Center, and a mentor for elementary school girls as a part of the Strong Women, Strong Girls program.

Maame at her virtual graduation ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Maame Opare-Addo.

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

In college, I had the opportunity to intern for lawyers and for a clinic where I interacted with patients. I found both experiences incredibly rewarding. As a legal intern, I was exposed to the various areas of policy practice while as a clinical intern, I gained a meaningful perspective on food insecurity both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. From these opportunities, I knew I wanted to work in a clinical setting where I would both immerse myself in research but also interact with study participants. I also wanted to grow in an environment where there was a broader policy component to the clinical work. I felt drawn to apply for an RA position at OrACORe because their research pursuits fit my interests and based on the collaborative nature of many of the projects. For example, if you look at the TeMPO, MeTeOR, or OAPol pages on the OrACORe website, you’ll notice that there are many collaborative-minded people across different institutions working together to make these studies happen! Mentorship is important to me, so on top of my interest in the clinical work, I was also excited by the opportunity to be mentored by so many knowledgeable faculty and staff.  

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

Every week is unique, so I feel engaged in the work that I do and by how much I’m learning about osteoarthritis every day! My primary studies are ORBIT and TeMPO, which means that I spend part of my week scheduling and performing follow-up visits with ORBIT participants. For TeMPO, I screen a few recruiting physicians’ clinics and perform baseline and follow-up visits. Other parts of my week consist of updating our official Twitter page and website, which includes performing interviews with physicians, faculty, and staff. Maintaining our social media presence through Twitter has been a great way to communicate with people who are interested in our research studies and findings and to learn about what other researchers are curious about in the field. Beyond that, I have also been working on a literature review on the long-term outcomes following arthroscopic partial meniscectomies as well as assisting with grant submissions. I’ve been using my APM literature review as an opportunity to better understand some of the clinical scenarios I see when screening physicians for the TeMPO study, our trial involving meniscal tears.

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

I enjoy how much we value curiosity here at OrACORe. I had no prior knowledge on orthopedics and arthritis coming into this RA position, but in the few months that I’ve worked here, I’ve acquired a wealth of information because asking questions is always encouraged. Working with other curiosity-driven RAs is a bonus! We’re always bouncing questions off each other.

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?

I recently hosted my first journal club on a paper focused on racial disparities in persons undergoing knee surgery. Dr. Katz was instrumental to my finding this paper and understanding the underlying concept of patient preferences in healthcare. I learned how patients conceptualize their treatment options according to their personal values, and how physicians can interact and collaborate with patients to assist them to formulate decisions on the treatment plan. Preference-based care, and its consideration of what patients desire from their healthcare providers, is rooted in patient advocacy. This form of care creates a better line of communication between patients and their doctors compared to less active patient-physician interactions. This journal club, the valuable and memorable conversations I had during my weekly check-ins with Dr. Katz, as well as the broader office-wide discussions at journal club inspire me to engage further in health disparities research.

Maame (2nd row on the top left) and the Tufts Africana Center peer leader cohort of 2018-2019. Photo courtesy of Maame Opare-Addo.

5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?

I took the MCAT and will be applying for medical school next year. My goal is to become a physician-activist. Working at OrACORe has shown me how research can strengthen clinical care, and so I’m looking forward to being a multi-hyphenate—physician-activist-researcher.

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

I’m a mentor for a program called the Valedictorian Project, and I have the pleasure of supporting my assigned college mentee for the next four years! Outside of mentoring, I’m a volunteer with the Boston Cares program. The 2021 RA cohort volunteers on the community service and engagement committee, which is a part of our broader anti-racism committee, and we all joined Boston Cares. Through this, I’m looking forward to volunteering with different non-profits such as food banks and park maintenance while also spending time with my OrACORe colleagues.

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