Mass General Researchers Unwrap Their Scientific Challenges Over Lunch

(Editor’s Note: The Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute has two communications interns from Emerson College this summer. This post is from our intern Alyssa.)

I’ve been alternating my time at the Mass General Research Institute between creating social media friendly content, generating story outlines, and delving into unfamiliar clinical research.

But one of my favorite experiences was attending the Research Portfolio Wrap Session a few weeks back.

Aside from indulging in free lunch (the provided tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwiches were much higher quality than those served at my school), I was able to get the inside scoop on the current research efforts being taken on by some of Mass General’s brightest scientific minds.

As Dr. Daniel Irimia kicked off the session with his presentation on measurements of neutrophils in sepsis, I quickly realized how vast and crucial the research community at Mass General really is.

For example, Dr. Irimia claimed his goal of reducing false positive sepsis tests would save
$6 billion dollars per year. Yet, this disease is so underfunded and misunderstood that this prospect is a difficult one to achieve.

He said that 1/10 Americans are unaware of what sepsis really is, and (aside from watching
the occasional House episode with a septic patient) I would unfortunately count myself with the majority on this one.

If it weren’t for researchers like Dr. Irimia, who is relentlessly searching for better treatments to help those 250,000 people who die from sepsis each year, scientific progress wouldn’t be adequately made on all fronts.

The following four presentations revolved around the brain, and half of those focused on mood disorders. Struggling with an anxiety disorder myself, my interest peaked as Dr. Alik Widge proposed deep brain stimulation as an effective treatment for these types of disorders.

He explained that the past 50 years of medicine and talk therapy have seen no change in morbidity and mortality, which obviously implies that our current methods aren’t so great.

As he closed the session with a discussion on the process of receiving funding and gaining access to equipment, I was taken aback by all the factors that can come into play and muddy the execution of an otherwise solid research study.

While I still have a lot to learn, I’m glad I was able to get a glimpse into the fundamentals of research and familiarize myself with some basics that would help me with my work later on.

Since this session, I’ve continued to acquire bits of interesting scientific knowledge here and there, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll come across in my last few weeks.

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