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Katie started working at OrACORe in July 2023 after graduating from the University of Chicago with a BA in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Immunology. Martial arts are one of Katie’s passions and she joined her college Judo Club in the fall of her first year and became the co-president in her junior year.  While in college, Katie investigated mechanisms of Type I diabetes using murine models for 2 years under the guidance of Dr. Alexander Chervonsky. Outside of work at OrACORe, Katie volunteers as a track and cross-country coach for Youth Enrichment Services (YES). Yes, provides youth in the Boston area with low-cost accessible sports opportunities and access to coaching mentors.

Katie Fox with her family at the University of Chicago graduation. Photo courtesy of Katie Fox.

What about this research position attracted you to it?

I was most attracted by the kind people and the culture of OrACORe. I could tell from my interview and other blogs posts that OrACORe works hard to develop a truly supportive and collaborative culture, which was my priority when looking at these types of positions. Not only that, but the job provided an opportunity for me to pursue interests in scientific research and healthcare simultaneously. This form of clinical research was a great fit for translating my educational passions into a real-world setting.

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

A typical week is pretty varied: there’s mix of interacting with study participants, both in-person or over the phone, and working on organizational and administrative tasks. As a coordinator for the COSMIC study, I lead meetings with our team to update and problem-solve on weekly basis. The study itself assesses interest in a hypothetical randomized control trial in which we would compare surgery (arthroscopic partial meniscectomy) to a non-operative regimen for people with persistent knee pain following an initial course of physical therapy. The questionnaire asks participants with knee pain about their experience with physical therapy, as well as what their thoughts are on participating in a trial with the proposed treatments.

Another one of my projects, INFORM, examines the role of inflammation in osteoarthritis via ultrasound imaging and quantitative sensory testing, which assesses neuropathic pain responses. This research could help providers predict the type of patient who might benefit the most from steroid injections for their knee pain. When working on INFORM, I spend the day in the Brigham Orthopaedic and Arthritis Center talking to potential participants and carrying out in-person study visits.

Lastly, the KArAT study aims to enhance physical activity for participants after total knee replacement surgery. My role is to provide health-coaching to study participants. I connect with study participants located in Boston, Chicago, Buffalo, and Kansas City over the telephone where we discuss their physical activity goals, review their most recent actigraph numbers, and assess their recovery process. There’s never a dull moment, and I’m grateful for the diversity of the projects and my responsibilities.

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

I adore all my coworkers and the environment at OrACORe. It’s collaborative, respectful, and encouraging of personal growth, both professionally and as an individual. Thank you to Jeff, Elena, and Faith for leading such a wonderful group! In addition to the environment, I love how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time about clinical studies from being a research assistant. For example, although the COSMIC study is only in the planning stages of the future randomized clinical trial, I’ve learned about the importance of collecting data on patient preference for treatments offered in a randomized control setting, as well as that of physician equipoise, which is the state of being uncertain about which treatment is superior. Both these elements are crucial for randomization to be meaningful in such a trial.

Katie Fox with the University of Chicago Judo Club. Photo courtesy of Katie Fox.

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 part of my work on the KArAT study, I call participants each week to discuss their recovery progress and physical activity goals. I’ve learned so much from their perspective on knee replacement surgery and healing in general. One piece is the importance of teamwork during such a difficult surgery and transformation, consisting of the orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, primary care providers, and family and friends. There is also the role that perseverance and self-care play from the patient’s perspective. I feel I have a better appreciation for the delivery of health care outside of the doctor’s office.

What are your plans post-OrACORe?

I’m still undecided on my post-OrACORe plans, but I am leaning towards some form of graduate school or medical school. OrACORe has helped reinforce and expand my interest in medicine, research, and people, and I’m excited to keep exploring and listening to different perspectives within healthcare during my time here!

What makes you laugh the most these days?

My coworkers! Now that it’s been a few months since the 1st year RAs started, we’re showcasing our humor more and more. All of them have cheered me up and made me crack up many times (to the point that I’ve interrupted meetings). From hearing about my coworkers’ weekend adventures to getting excited about the bee-patterned bandage from our local blood donor center, we have light-heartedness covered.

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