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Mahima Kumara began working as an OrACORe research assistant in the summer of 2021 after working for the Music and School Initiative at Yale for a year after graduating from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in Statistics and Data Science. In her time at OrACORe, Mahima led her co-RAs in the operation of the KArAT and MeTeOR studies. Outside of the office, Mahima enjoyed hiking around New England and cunducting the Boston Children’s Choir. In this departing interview, Mahima reflects on what she’ll miss around the office and her future plans.

Mahima hiking Mount Monadnock in NH. Photo courtesy of Mahima Kumara.

In what ways have you experienced professional and personal growth during your tenure at OrACORe/PIVOT?

At OrACORe/PIVOT, I’ve been able to experience so many different sides to working in a team. From the steep learning curve of the first days as a new RA (with almost no idea what osteoarthritis was), to collaborating with and learning from dedicated faculty mentors, to now training new staff and coordinating multi-center trials as a second-year RA, I have grown more comfortable playing a variety of roles within a research group. In these roles, I’ve learned to create actionable plans for large-scale projects, to ask for help more freely, and to more intentionally listen to and uplift the input of other team members. I’ve also grown more comfortable with consciously creating work-life balance whenever possible, something I noticed the faculty here supports for us and embodies themselves. I hadn’t really experienced a setting like this before, coming from a university environment where overwork was often expected. I think these lessons will extend to any team or work setting I’m part of throughout my life.

How has working at OrACORe/PIVOT impacted your views on the practice of medicine through the lenses of clinical and policy research?

Before working at OrACORe/PIVOT, I viewed research as slightly removed from on-the-ground practice of medicine; research was something that could possibly make an impact on patient’s lives in the long run but could feel fruitless day-to-day. At OrACORe/PIVOT, however, I’ve been able to see how the practice of research itself, in interacting with study participants, can make a direct impact on individuals. It’s also been fulfilling and fascinating to see how OrACORe/PIVOT studies, such as the MeTeOR trial, have directly impacted clinical practice given changes in Association for Molecular Pathology guidelines/recommendations such as using PT as a first line treatment for meniscal tear.

Mahima standing next to a foot statue at the BWH Faulkner Hospital. Photo courtesy of Mahima Kumara.

What will you miss most about OrACORe/PIVOT?

In what I’m sure is a variation on most people’s answers, I will absolutely miss the people most. It is a joy to come to work every day surrounded by such kind, motivated individuals, with such a focus on collaboration. I will miss the mentorship provided by the faculty here at OrACORe/PIVOT as well as the camaraderie and friendship among our team of RAs.

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

In a bit of a twist, I am going to graduate school for music this fall to pursue a career in choral conducting. While I am not staying in the field of medicine, I hope to apply the research and writing experience I gained at OrACORe/PIVOT to academic work throughout my career. Additionally, I greatly valued the thoughtful guidance and unyielding support from OrACORe/PIVOT faculty as I strived to figure out my career goals over the past two years and ultimately decided to make the switch from science to music.

Any advice for future research assistants considering or starting their tenure at OrACORe/PIVOT?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. At OrACORe/PIVOT, this applies in one sense to day-to-day tasks: there is no need to struggle with a computer model on your own or spend weeks wondering what the meniscus actually is when other RAs and faculty are always willing to assist! But even more importantly, I think this applies to your broader life. Ask for help regarding career goals, managing the new demands of what is likely your first job out of college, or any other issues that arise while you are here. Especially in the process of applying to medical or graduate school, this can feel like a high-stress couple of years with an inordinate amount of uncertainty, and it can seem at times like everyone around you has things all figured out. But there is no need to present a brave face or a sunny view of how things are going if that happens to not be the case. Remember that each of us as an individual encompasses so much more than our work, productivity, or achievements; support one another and ask for support when you need it. Everyone at OrACORe/PIVOT wants to help you succeed.

Mahima with fellow RAs Lauren and Hanna. Photo courtesy of Mahima Kumara.

What will you miss most about the social side of OrACORe/PIVOT?

Our cohort of RAs has been such a lovely community of friends over the past two years. I’ll miss the daily conversations and laughs shared in the office as much as I’ll miss the various RA gatherings we’ve had, especially our shining moments competing in trivia (with the team name “The Bee’s Knee Replacements”). I hope to keep in touch!

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