Two Brigham and Women’s Hospital Global Health Interns Visit the MGH Institute

Nov 24, 2014

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Global Health Interns, Sarah Fortinsky and Yael Koren spent time visiting the MGH Institute, learning about research in the health professions at the Institute, including communication sciences and disorders, nursing, and physical therapy. They also interviewed faculty members who are involved in global health teaching, clinical practice, and research. Along with their mentor, Dr. Patrice Nicholas who is professor at the MGH Institute and also serves as director of Global Health and Academic Partnerships at BWH, Ms. Fortinsky and Ms. Koren visited the laboratories at Building 79/96. Over several days, the global health interns met in Professor Lisa Wood’s laboratory to explore the work on cancer fatigue with Professor John Wong and Ms. Nancy Nagda. Professors Wood and Wong were recruited from Oregon Health and Sciences University to bring their impressive body of research to the MGH Institute and the Partners HealthCare and Spaulding community. Professor Wong completed a postdoctoral fellowship in hematology and oncology prior to joining Professor Wood’s research team in Oregon. His program of research is focused on cell signaling, inflammation, and chemotherapy. Their research teamwork is comprehensive in that it focuses on bench science—exploring fatigue in mice in the laboratory and cell cultures, as well as cancer fatigue in the clinical setting with breast cancer patients. Ms. Nagda offered a comprehensive overview of the clinical arm of the work of Professors Wood and Wong.

Professor Janet Kneiss’s laboratory was the focus of a second visit to explore the role of physical therapy in biomotion research. The research being conducted will expand the knowledge in partnership with Professor Lisa Wood’s laboratory to address an interprofessional approach to the investigation of cancer-related fatigue. This work will include fatigue protocols and measurement of fatigue and biomotion. One example is the use of a biomotion chair to test patients during their recovery after hip fracture to measure functioning through a biomechanical approach. The interns met with Rebecca Brees, a Doctor of Physical Therapy student who shared her role as a research assistant with Dr. Kneiss. Ms. Brees studied biochemistry and psychology in her first baccalaureate degree before her passion for physical therapy emerged. She read a text regarding the health challenges that women experience living with fistulae in Ethiopia, including stigma and social isolation. Her childhood backgound also influenced her choice of a health care career since she lived in Pakistan from age 4 to 17 years. Ms. Brees’ mother was an inspiration for her pursuit of a health care career, in that her mother was committed to her work as an obstetrician gynecologist in Pakistan. Ms. Brees’ mother worked in a hospital in the Kashmir area where she trained obstetricians and nurse midwives in this low resource setting with many complex women’s health issues. Ms. Brees is being mentored by Dr. Kneiss—a unique opportunity to engage in clinical research while studying for her future career in clinical practice.

Another opportunity to learn about research was offered by Professor Tiffany Hogan in the SAiL program. The mission of the SAiL program is to improve educational outcomes for children and adults with speech, language, and reading impairments. Dr. Hogan was recruited to the MGH Institute, along with Dr. Jordan Green, from the University of Nebraska to launch the Institute’s premier research portfolio in the area of speech-language with their highly successful programs of research. In addition, to her work on speech assessment and intervention, Dr. Hogan stays active in her office by attaching her desk to a Treadmill! She walks approximately four hours a day but has slowed this pace during her recent pregnancy.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the visit to the Professor Hogan’s laboratory was the esthetic appearance including the computer stations which are named after classic storybooks and adorned with colorful book covers such as “Where the Wild Things Are”, “The Giving Tree”, “Olivia”, and “Corduroy”. Professor Hogan described how the environment encourages the team to feel engaged in the mission of the SAiL program when tasks such as data entry may be complex. “A lot of this work is often very tedious and what is so important is to know that even though you might just be pushing a button, that we couldn’t accomplish any work without that button being pushed. So I really want to create an environment where each member of our team feels that their contributions are essential to success.” Further Professor Hogan shared: “This is a chain and we need all of the links to be strong.”

In addition to leading a team of postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, MS students, and BS students from other local universities, she generously offers her expertise to school communities through her program of research. Her mentors include her mother, who was educated in Speech-Language Pathology and subsequently worked in Professor Hogan’s laboratory at the University of Nebraska. Her mother is completing her PhD in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Kansas—now following in her daughter’s footsteps!


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