In the fall as I began my second year of postbaccalaureate studies at Tufts, I was eager to expand my clinical experience.  Living so close to Boston, there is an incredibly wide range of opportunities in the healthcare field that a postbac student can participate in, with unique lessons to be learned from each.  I was drawn to the Lahey Clinical Research Preceptorship program offered to Tufts Postbac students in particular because I was excited to have the opportunity to work closely with a physician and to engage with clinical research.

As I began my preceptorship in September, I was thrilled to be working with a general surgeon and I eagerly anticipated the first surgery I would observe.  In the operating room, though my face was largely concealed beneath a surgical mask, the scrub nurses quickly noticed my excitement and apprehension.  “Just make sure you faint away from the sterile field,” one joked.  I solemnly nodded, terrified that my physiologic response would forsake me.  “So are you going to be a surgeon?” the other teased.  I froze like a mouse.  Before I could force out a faint, “maybe”, the surgeon for whom I work declared, “Of course she will be” and proceeded to point out the anatomical landmarks that he was exposing.

One of the most valuable components of any pre-medical clinical experience is the opportunity to be mentored by a physician who is excited to be teaching you.  The Tufts preceptor program, affiliated with Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA, has given me exactly that.  Every preceptorship is proposed by a physician at Lahey who has a specific research project in mind and who is motivated to have a student shadowing and working for them.  While observing in both the clinic and operating room, I am encouraged to ask questions and each is met by a thoughtful and enthusiastic response.

Research is another valued component of my experience at Lahey.  As a pre-medical student, it is a truly unique opportunity to collaborate on the design and implementation of a clinical feasibility trial.  Intra-operative thermal imaging of cancerous lesions is an exciting area of research where little published data exists.  The interdisciplinary nature of the subject has allowed me to apply concepts that I have learned in isolation in my premedical classes to solve a complex problem, applying the principles of electromagnetic radiation that I learned in physics to my understanding of the metabolic states of tumors from biochemistry.  While conducting a literature review, writing a study protocol, and now beginning data collection and analysis, I am proud of the my contributions to this project and I am excited to continue working on it this spring.

Since I began my postbaccalaureate studies at Tufts, I highly value the opportunities that I have had for clinical experience.  Working with patients as a health coach at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, gaining exposure to a fast-paced clinical environment as a volunteer in emergency radiology at MGH and beginning research and shadowing at Lahey have all been an important part of focusing my motivation for a career in medicine.  The mentorship and opportunity for clinical research experience that I gained through participating in the Lahey program has been an exceptionally rewarding experience.

Stephanie Vaughn
Tufts Postbac Premed student
Completing 2018