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Rachel Lovejoy joined OrACORe in August 2023 following her graduation from Amherst College with a BA in Neuroscience. In the fall of 2019, Rachel took part in research on black bear population density in Massachusetts. During the summer of 2020, she worked on a pregnancy planning blog to provide accessible content for expecting parents. That fall Rachel was a teaching assistant for an introductory Biology lab course. She gained further research experience during her sophomore and junior years by investigating the function of synaptic proteins in a molecular neuroscience lab at Amherst. Throughout her four years, Rachel was an outfielder on the Amherst Softball team and helped her team win their first conference title in program history in the spring of 2022. Outside of OrACORe, Rachel has channeled her love for sports into volunteering as a cross country coach for the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program. YES, provides youth in the Boston area with low-cost accessible sports opportunities.

Rachel with her family at graduation. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lovejoy.

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

All the people that I get to interact with on a daily basis! My colleagues at OrACORe are one-of-a-kind individuals. All my fellow research assistants are such wonderful people and I have enjoyed getting to know them as we work beside each other and Jeff, Faith, Elena, and Jamie have been such incredible mentors. Seeing how they work, communicate, and lead has been both impressive and inspiring. The environment they have created here at OrACORe is one of the best I have had the opportunity to take part in! I’m hoping to soak up all the knowledge they share during my two years here. Lastly, it has been a privilege to work with the study participants. I have found it rewarding to interaction with subjects over the phone or during study visit appointments, as they share stories about their lives. I find these conversations to be some of the most fulfilling parts of my job.

What is a typical week on the job for you?

In the few months I have been at OrACORe, I’ve learned that there is no typical week on the job. Every week and each day possess a new and exciting set of tasks! I am currently involved with four projects that are each in very different places, meaning I am getting exposure to many of the phases of the clinical trial process. The CoMeT study is actively recruiting and randomizing patients, and so I work to screen clinics for eligible patients, consent them to the study, and help with data collection during the surgery and again during follow-up visits. ORBIT and TeMPO are both in the final stages of follow-up. For these studies, I am currently reaching out to the remaining active participants to work with them to complete their final questionnaires. Lastly, PIKASO has not yet begun to recruit study subjects and the study protocols and operational components are being finalized prior to launch. Right now, I am creating study materials and working on Institutional Review Board (IRB) documents in order to help the study get off to a seamless start in the next couple of months.

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 way?

Recently, I was able to shadow Jeff during his clinic hours and was blown away by how he interacted with patients. He treated people with remarkable kindness and remembered personal details of each patient’s life. His attention to these moments was above and beyond what I thought was expected of him, yet at the same time, he has formed such a strong bond and layer of trust between physician and patient. In between patients, Jeff explained to me why he frames his interactions with patients in this way, which has stuck with me these past few weeks. For patients suffering from a chronic illness, it is natural for patients to develop negative feelings toward the doctor because they can easily associate the physician with their illness. Asking about family, hobbies, and other more positive topics helps ‘lighten the air’ and changes the tenor of the conversation from illness to their entire life. This has greatly influenced the way in which I define effective patient care.

Rachel with her fellow senior softball teammates. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lovejoy.

What about this research position attracted you to it?

After college, I knew I wanted to find a clinical research position that would help me figure out my future career path while also being surrounded by supportive coworkers. The idea of moving to a new city was exciting, but also equally terrifying, and I wanted to be part of a group that would be open to spending time with each other outside of work. The opportunity to work with other research assistants who would be around my age and share similar interests is what attracted me to the position at OrACORe. Secondly, my prior research experiences consisted entirely of laboratory research, which at times was isolating. I saw clinical research as a great way to interact with others while also providing me with clinical exposures. Lastly, I knew I wanted to work in a healthy, encouraging environment that would help me figure out my career aspirations, a concept that OrACORe embodies. During the interviewing process, I was impressed by the emphasis OrACORe places on building community and recruiting good people above all else. Hearing that I would be consistently meeting with Jeff, Faith, and Elena to discuss my well-being, career goals, and progress at work ultimately confirmed to me that working at OrACORe was the best decision I could make.

What makes you laugh the most these days?

My roommate! We became close friends in college, and we both happened to find positions in clinical research around the Longwood Medical Area. Even though we just moved into our apartment a few weeks ago, we have already shared many laughs together. We recently started a weekly tradition that is guaranteed to generate some giggles. One night every week, we get together and cook a meal together. We alternate between choosing new recipes and grocery shopping. Then at the end of the day, we get together and cook the meal after work. While the meals we’ve cooked have turned out wonderfully, the cooking process has had some hilarious mishaps as we get accustomed to our new kitchen. It’s been a great way to decompress, get to know each other, and make home-cooked meals.

What are your plans after OrACORe?

One of the biggest reasons that I was interested in working at OrACORe after college was to help me figure out my career plans. While I have a long-standing interest in healthcare, I have never been exposed, on a consistent basis to a clinical setting. OrACORe provides me the opportunity to become enmeshed in multiple research studies over the course of two years. Currently, I am strongly considering applying to medical school, but am also keeping the door open to other career paths, such as public health or research. The bottom line is that I want to get a sense of all the opportunities available to me, especially the ones that I am not even aware of, before I move forward with my career.  

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