CFS Class: Field Studies in Public Health
Employer: Asher Center for the Study & Treatment of Depressive Disorders
For my CFS internship, I am working as a research assistant at Northwestern Medicine’s Asher Center for the Study & Treatment of Depressive Disorders. Though research in both women and mental health has expanded in recent years, little research has been conducted to study the effects of pregnancy on bi-polar medication levels and vice versa, making it more difficult for bipolar-affected women to make informed choices on continuation of medication throughout pregnancy—often leading to either discontinuation or less-than-therapeutic levels of these drugs (which have been correlated to riskier pregnancies). The (amazing, understaffed) team I am working with is focusing on promoting emotionally healthy pregnancies by studying medication levels in pregnant women with bipolar-disorder over the course of their pregnancy. As a student intern, I help with the management of these clinical research studies which includes tasks like data management and verification, recruitment planning and conduction, and brainstorming on other ways to improve procedural workflow and efficiency. Despite the challenge and limitation of only working for 10-12 hours a week, this internship has been extremely valuable in familiarizing me with the different aspects of clinical research and allowing me to make contributions, even if small in scale, to these much-needed studies. Through shadowing visits, participating in weekly discussions on recent findings in mental health, and managing data/data collection, I am now better able to connect how my STEM/pre-med learning can be applied to serve vulnerable populations. I certainly recommend the internship to students who, like me, are seeking to go beyond book knowledge and get a better grip of what clinical research in women’s/mental health can look like.