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Discovering the Many Paths within Medicine

When biochemistry and molecular biology senior Trisha Chau participated in the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Research and Reporting Program (MCORRP) internship in the summer of 2017, she discovered paths in the medical field she had not previously considered.

“I’ve seen that there are other routes than becoming a doctor — that you can do more, and it’s not just about seeing patients but about being able to make an impact on the world by other means,” Chau says.

The internship is specifically designated for an Oregon State honors student and is made possible by Dr. Kim Eagle, an Oregon State alumnus and director of the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan.

For 12 weeks, interns work with a database of aortic dissection, which compiles clinical information from physicians around the world. They attend daily lectures on diseases of the heart and learn about other research projects at the center.

Chau heard about a project that recently received FDA approval to send used pacemakers to developing countries. The study showed that the used pacemakers are as effective as new pacemakers. The project inspired Chau and gave her a new, more specific direction to explore within the endless possibilities of medicine.

“I want to be a cardiologist, but I also want to focus on economically disadvantaged areas where health inequality is prevalent. I want to create medical equipment or modify existing medical equipment to make it more accessible to people because healthcare should be a right, not a privilege,” says Chau, who is also receiving a certificate in the medical humanities.

She has continued to communicate with the database manager at Michigan, asking for feedback on an article she hopes to publish soon in a journal of cardiology. Chau also recently presented her paper on aortic dissection at a conference at Harvard University.

Building relationships with people already in the field, as well as with the 30 other student interns in the program, Chau says, was one of the main benefits of the internship. “One impact was better communication with other people, being able to relate to people from different backgrounds and with peers, medical students, doctors, nurses and technicians. We shadowed at the hospital at University of Michigan and we had to connect with all of these people. First impressions mattered, as well as maintaining the connection.”

Chau says her connection with Dr. Eagle was also key to her learning and refining her passions in the medical field. He ensured she had support while in Michigan and suggested different routes, whether she decided to become a physician or not. “He said, ‘Do what you love because you only live once.’” Chau says. “The mentorship was as important as the project itself.”

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