KATIE CAMPBELL- On Monday, as I flipped to the next week in my planner, I realized that we were beginning our eighth week here in Madrid. The program is approximately 16 weeks long, so this week marks the halfway point. This didn’t at all seem possible. It feels like my classes are still getting started, and I’m finally settling into a routine!
After almost two weeks of orientation, and classes starting at staggered intervals depending on where they are located (the Program Center, UAM, UAH, etc), it’s definitely been nice to ease into the school year rather than being abruptly thrown back into schoolwork as is the case at Tufts after a summer of relaxation. Though I have recently started to feel that my classes are moving into the middle-of-the-semester “midterm season” as due-dates for essays approach and exams have begun, I truly can’t believe that I’m halfway done with my internship.
Unlike some of my peer’s less serious (but possibly more fun) internships at cooking schools and wine stores, my internship is in a doctor’s office. As one of the few pre-meds in the program, I have the amazing opportunity to work in the Clínica Ojeda de Asma y Alergía. The clinic, founded in 1967, is an internationally known allergy and asthma clinic that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of food, environmental, and occupational allergies.
Along with observing the doctors and nurses in the clinic, translating the website, and attending weekly clinical sessions with the doctors; I, along with one other student from Tufts, am working on a follow-up research study involving patients who previously underwent desensitization treatments for allergies to cooked egg, raw egg, and milk. This is a treatment in which a patient (who has a diagnosed allergy) begins a strict plan in which they consume an increasing amount of the food each day. For example, patients begin by being given one drop of diluted milk, and slowly work their way to 200 mL at which point they must continue to consume the food they were previously allergic to. This treatment plan works for an extraordinary number of patients, by “resetting” the body’s immune response to their allergen. Our job at the clinic is to contact these patients to see how the treatment holds up months or years after they finish.
Having previously done similar clinical research, I know that the scientific process is a long and sometimes arduous one. It was naïve of me to think that in the 16 week fall semester we would be able to validate the list of patients to contact, create a follow-up survey, contact the patients with the survey, and analyze the data. Over the past weeks that we’ve been working, we haven’t yet completed the first task: going through the lists of patients who have undergone this treatment to compile their contact and treatments information.
While some people may be get stressed out because we seem to be moving at a snail’s pace, I’ve decided to adopt a more Spanish mindset. At first, it bugged me that I was stuck staring at a computer screen, and wasn’t getting to actually contact the patients, but I realized that what we’re doing now is just as important. We have the rest of this semester and all of next semester to work on the project, and then who knows, maybe next year’s students will finish it off!
To say that I haven’t learned a lot from my internship in the past eight weeks would be a huge understatement. When I came to Spain, my knowledge of the intricacies of asthma and allergies was next to none, so the first few weeks were a crash course of immunology. Additionally, the team of doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel constantly go out of their way to make sure that we are comfortable, and that we understand everything that’s going on in the clinic. As I am not taking any science classes this semester, my internship has been a perfect way for me to continue to learn and connect with my chosen profession. They even let me wear a white coat, so it has to be good experience, right?