This summer, I worked under Dr. Matthew Hocking at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in the Section on Behavioral Oncology. Dr. Hocking is a pediatric psychologist whose research program focuses on the neurodevelopmental outcomes of pediatric tumor survivors. He is currently directing several studies that I was able to be involved with, one investigating the social attention and related brain connectivity of brain tumor survivors and another comparing the social outcomes of brain tumor survivors and solid tumor survivors.
Leading into the summer, I was definitely apprehensive about the entire experience. I had never worked in clinical research before, and I was unsure what to expect from that setting, as well as what would be expected of me. I was also nervous about working with human subjects and worried that I wouldn’t be able to conduct myself appropriately. However, I found that the most effective and efficient way to learn was by doing, rather than agonizing over whether I would make a mistake. I also have my mentors and team members to thank for facilitating my learning process, and for taking care to train me in everything from scoring data to the consent process to the cultural considerations to be taken into account in research.
Throughout my ten weeks, I especially appreciated how much my mentors took my goals into consideration. Although I am interested in medical school, a different path than that taken by many people on the Behavioral Oncology team, I was definitely able to gain experiences that I found both rewarding and meaningful for my future career plans. My interactions with patients, family and medical care teams in clinic have been truly inspiring. Each child and every parent has shown me that although pediatric oncology is certainly a difficult and emotionally charged field, in the end it is all about hope. Ultimately, the research that I worked on this summer was done in the hope that one day it might help improve the life of even one child, and in that regard, I cannot think of a more fulfilling way in which I could have spent the summer