Penn’s Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness (PCWBW) provides the Hartshorne-Mudd Summer Research Intensive Program for undergraduate and graduate students to gain research experience in women’s health. This past summer, I was a research assistant at PCWBW under the supervision of Dr. C. Neill Epperson. The center currently has five ongoing studies that focus on bringing attention to different aspects of women’s health. As a research assistant, I had the opportunity to witness the center’s psychiatrists’ new patient visits, participate in center research meetings, recruit for studies, listen to didactics, and assist on a research study.
The research study that I devoted much of my time to was the Psychophysiology, Neurosteroids, and Stress in Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) study. The Principal Investigator of the PMDD study is Dr. Liisa Hantsoo, and Joanna Marks contributes to the project as a Clinical Research Coordinator. This study evaluates the psychophysiology of premenstrual mood disorders (PMDs) at baseline and after sertraline treatment. The study evaluates between the different groups’ arousal and tests the ability of sertraline to minimize PMDD women’s heightened arousal during their luteal phase (the few days prior menstruation).
Working on the PMDD study allowed me to participate in many different components of clinical research. In order for participants to enroll in studies, they undergo a phone screening, meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and complete a daily record of severity of problems (DRSP). I not only phone screened participants but I also worked with manipulating and entering the DRSP data into RedCap. The phone screening forced me to become familiar with different conditions, drugs, contraception, and psychiatric illnesses that exclude patients from the studies. In addition, the data entry allowed me to gain insight on using RedCap and understanding how participants were categorized based on their DRSP tracking. Fortunately, I also interacted with patients in-person on their test days.