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Zoe Zimmerman began working as an OrACORe research assistant in the summer of 2020 after graduating from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. In her time at OrACORe, Zoe led her co-RAs in the operation of the TeMPO study, a research study investigating non-operative therapies for over 800 individuals with meniscal tears. Outside of the office, Zoe enjoyed exploring Boston with friends and colleagues. In this departing interview, Zoe reflects on her growth as a research assistant and shares her goals for a future in medicine.

1. In what ways have you grown from being first-year RAs to second-year RAs?

When I started working at OrACORe, I remember being both intimidated and impressed by the second-year RAs. They were incredibly knowledgeable, led meetings with grace, and answered my questions with confidence. It was difficult to imagine myself in their shoes a year later.

As first-year RAs, you ease into things – you become familiar with study protocols, start working on a few projects, and gain an understanding of the research process. Under the guidance of Jeff, Elena, Faith, and the second-year RAs, you are gradually given more responsibilities and independence. This is at first daunting, but you gain confidence as you successfully complete tasks that were once outside of your comfort zone. I remember being so nervous to lead my first TeMPO investigators’ call and to submit my first IRB amendment – I now feel very capable and comfortable doing both things. As a second-year RA, you also take on leadership roles, which is an incredible opportunity for growth. The motto here at OrACORe is “see one, do one, teach one”; for the most part, “see one” and “do one” happen in your first year, while “teach one” happens in your second year. The idea behind this quote is that “teaching one” not only helps pass on knowledge to the next generation of RAs but it also solidifies the teacher’s own knowledge of the task. Acting as a teacher and a leader this past year has been enjoyable and rewarding, and I have learned so much about working on multi-center (and sometimes international!) teams, resolving conflict, troubleshooting problems, delegating responsibilities, and staying on top of things.

2. How has working at OrACORe impacted your views on medicine and/or research?

Working at OrACORe helped me realize how deeply intertwined medicine and research are. Medicine is ever evolving, and while we have made incredible advancements in healthcare and technology, there is still so much we don’t know. We must stay curious, keep asking questions, and conduct research to provide the best care possible to our patients and our communities!

3. What will you miss most about OrACORe?

From left to right: research assistants Claire McHugh and Zoe Zimmerman. Photo courtesy of Zoe Zimmerman

I will miss the OrACORe community. OrACORe is unique in that you work with a group of RAs who are similar in age and have similar interests to you. I love coming to work in the morning and commiserating with my coworkers over how difficult the Wordle of the day is and our occasional 3pm trips to the 3rd floor market for snacks. I will also miss the incredible mentorship we get from fellow RAs as well as Jeff, Elena, and Faith.  

4. What are your career goals and how have they been affected by your experience at OrACORe?

I took the research assistant job at OrACORe because I was interested in medicine and research. I had participated in quite a few basic science research projects in undergrad, but I had no clinical research experience. Working at OrACORe is amazing for those interested in healthcare careers because you get a taste of what it might be like to be a physician-scientist. I had the opportunity to shadow Jeff in clinic, conduct musculoskeletal exams on study participants, and work on research projects from start to finish. These experiences helped solidify my interest in patient care, research, and teaching, and I hope to incorporate all three in my future career.

5. Any advice for future research assistants?                                 

You’ll be graduating before you know it – enjoy the time you have at OrACORe! You can learn so much from your fellow RAs and the faculty; they are incredible role models. Make note of positive qualities you observe in your peers and mentors and try to emulate them yourself!

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