Final Thoughts from our Research Institute Summer Interns

As communications interns, Alyssa and Milo spent most of their time at the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute creating social media posts and writing articles on the research being conducted throughout the hospital. 

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Alyssa’s most memorable experiences were interviewing Farrah J. Mateen, MD, PhD, about her neurological work in developing countries and Daniel Irimia, MD, PhD, about his Dicty World Race. Beyond her writing, she learned more about the research at MGH by attending various events and
meetings.

Q: What did you like most about attending events throughout Mass General?

A: The Research Institute’s administrative office is located on the further end of the
MGH campus and is about a 10-minute walk from the main hospital buildings. I enjoyed working in a quiet office building, but I was grateful to have the opportunity to switch up my environment by traveling to the main campus for events and outings. I was able to meet different people and see how drastically different each part of MGH really is.

For example, Milo and I took the shuttle bus to the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Charlestown for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day event in July. We saw presentations on the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease and other related neurological disorders, including frontotemporal dementia.

The researchers and advocates involved in this event were so passionate about raising awareness for these debilitating conditions, and many of them had dedicated their lives to helping others affected by them. As we returned to the Research Institute office, I found myself thinking about how far Mass General’s neurological research had progressed and what kind of potential it has for the future.

To learn more about the history and impact of research at Mass General, we also toured the Ether Dome and the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History, both of which serve as important landmarks for the entire medical community.

While there weren’t any specific events being held there when we arrived, we were still able to browse the fascinating displays and chat with those who oversaw them.

Overall, returning to the Research Institute office to promote the work being done at Mass General felt even more worthwhile after reminding myself of its significance throughout these various outings.

Q: What did you learn about the role of communications in scientific research?

A: I was passionate about communicating science and public health before I started this internship, and working at Mass General has strengthened my interests even more.

I was aware that there is a need for effective communication to connect researchers with both the lay public and the rest of the medical community, but I was able to really recognize its importance after attempting to bridge this gap firsthand.

I learned that researchers rely on communications specialists to relay accurate information about their studies to the public in a way that is easily understandable, but does not undermine the work’s scientific importance.

In the case of researchers I interacted with and interviewed throughout my internship, this was necessary in order to build awareness and raise crucial funds so they were able to best execute their projects.

Similarly, those in communications have a duty to the people who are receiving this information as they depend on it to further their own medical knowledge.

Whether they are patients or not, the public should have the opportunity to be well-versed and educated on the important work being done at Mass General. If they are properly informed and wish to get involved, they can do so and fully invest their trust in MGH researchers.

Similarly, Milo enjoyed learning about the various studies occurring throughout the hospital and the vital role communications plays in sharing them with the public.

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Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned during your time at Massachusetts General Hospital?

A: I had the opportunity to read many research studies on topics ranging from the genetic root of common diseases to the benefits of meditation. However, the most fascinating Mass General-led study I came across described findings on how the body eliminates damaged red blood cells and recycles iron.

While the medical community had previously established the fact that even the healthiest of red blood cells have a limited lifespan, little was known about how they are disposed of and how their iron is retained.

Mass General researchers used multiple models of red blood cell damage to investigate the mechanisms involved in their elimination of cells and the recycling of their iron, and they ultimately discovered that the liver is the organ that plays the largest role in this process.

This is especially interesting as they mentioned that further research could provide information about how an overactive or otherwise impaired liver can remove too many red blood cells or even lead to iron toxicity.

Read about the study here.

Q: What did you learn about yourself during this internship?

A: As a marketing major, I discovered that the communications skills I have learned at Emerson College can be utilized in many different ways.

During my time as a communications intern at the Mass General Research Institute, I was able to write articles, proofread publications, talk to medical professionals about their work, and create social media posts to share the groundbreaking research that is being conducted at Mass General.

My background in marketing helped me to determine the most effective way to promote the hard work of Mass General professionals and communicate their often-complicated findings to the lay public.

I was also given the opportunity to work alongside Alyssa, one of my peers from Emerson College. Although she is a journalism major and pursuing an entirely different course of study than I am, we realized early on that we had both learned similar communication techniques from our classes and that our skill sets could be easily integrated.

When we weren’t collaborating, we were able to help each other with specific assignments and brainstorm ideas for new ones.

This experience showed me that communications students of all majors can come together to find the most effective way to share information with the public and create something meaningful.

Milo and Alyssa would like to thank the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute for a fantastic experience! 

And we want to thank them for all their hard work and creativity this summer.

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