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Annie Holleman started working at OrACORe in July of 2023 shortly after graduating from Middlebury College with a BA in Anthropology and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. During the fall of her first year (2019) at Middlebury, Annie joined the women’s crew team, which she would go on to captain her senior year. In the winter of 2020 Annie became an outdoor emergency care (OEC) first responder on the Middlebury College Ski Patrol. When not on the river rowing or on the ski slopes, Annie volunteered as a reading tutor to local youth. Annie also took part in The Body Online Lab at Middlebury where she worked to identify undertaught topics among health classes in rural Vermont middle schools and high schools. In 2021 Annie joined the Middlebury Student Government Association as a member of the health and wellness committee.

A photo of Annie Holleman with her diploma and graduation cane. Photo courtesy of Annie Holleman.

What about this research position attracted you to it?

I was originally drawn to OrACORe due to the interdisciplinary nature of the research group. I have always had many different interests, and it was exciting to find a position populated with people with a wide range of expertise, from health policy, medicine, public health, data science, to biostatistics, all housed within one research group. As I learned more about OrACORe, I was excited to be involved in the opportunity to work on multiple studies at once in a collaborative environment with other RAs. Furthermore, OrACORe offered invaluable mentorship with the research faculty.

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

There is so much that happens in a typical week at OrACORe and every week I learn something new. I currently work on MeTeOR, KArAT, and TOPS. These three studies are all at different stages of completion and this has been invaluable in learning about the life cycle of a study. For MeTeOR, I am helping complete the 13-year follow-up by contacting the last study participants and preparing the study images to be scored by the radiologists. As an unblinded RA for KArAT, a randomized control study or RCT, I complete health coaching calls with study participants, help with randomization assignments, and complete data quality checks. TOPS, another RCT led by colleagues at Wake Forest, has been gearing up to start screening and recruiting potential subjects, so we are busy preparing recruitment materials, identifying advertisement avenues, and submitting materials to the IRB (Institutional Review Board) for approval to ensure our study site is ready to hit the ground running. No two weeks are the same, but the typical week usually combines the activities from these three studies to keep me busy!

A photo of Annie Holleman (back row and to the right) with her Middlebury Crew teammates. Photo courtesy of Annie Holleman.

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

There are so many aspects of this job that I enjoy, but so far, my favorite has been how much I am learning. It seems that every day I learn something new about the flow of clinical research or the ins-and-outs of osteoarthritis. Everyone who works here is knowledgeable and always willing to share their expertise or offer assistance when needed. Additionally, I always enjoy walking into work where I get to see all the friendly faces of the office!

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?

As I check-in with KArAT study participants who are recovering from their total knee replacement, I realized how much I enjoy being able to connect and support them. Many of these patients voice how grateful they are for the check-in telephone calls, which give them an opportunity to share their struggles and successes as they return to normal knee function. Recovery following a total knee replacement is not linear and each participant’s post-surgical trajectory is vastly different, which changes their need for support after surgery. Learning about the variations in recovery experiences, as well as talking with participants post-surgery has influenced me to investigate specialties where I can form close relationships with patients. Exposure to medical specialties that I am not as familiar with, such as rheumatology, has influenced me to learn more about other disciplines in which the provider is able to connect in depth with their patients to provide personalized care.

Annie Holleman (4th from left in the back row yellow hat) with the Middlebury college snow bowl ski patrol. Photo courtesy of Annie Holleman.

What are your plans post-OrACORe?

I am currently studying for the MCAT and hope to apply to medical school in spring 2024. I am very interested in pursuing a dual MD/MPH program and I want to incorporate aspects of public health to my clinical practice. Throughout this time, I also hope to stay involved in clinical research as I pursue my medical degree.

What makes you laugh the most these days?

I love spending time with my family and friends. The people I love always know how to make me laugh the most! I also enjoy watching sitcoms, especially New Girl, which always is an all-time favorite.

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