Hannah Mathew ’23

Boston Medical Center, Nephrology Department, Boston, MA

This summer, I had the opportunity to work in Boston Medical Center’s Nephrology Department as a clinical research intern. The Waikar Lab Group is led by the principal investigator and Chief of Nephrology, Dr. Sushrut Waikar (an Amherst alum). Time was balanced between the office, lab space, and clinic. When I was in the office, I screened potential patients for our studies, streamlined data for our recruitment process, and made sure our patients were properly compensated for their participation. In the renal and ophthalmology clinic, I helped recruit patients after a visit with their practitioner, assisted in acquiring informed consent for one of a dozen trials, and ensured patient comfort. Finally, my time in the lab consisted of processing patient samples and inventorying samples in each freezer. I appreciated that the day-to-day was incredibly varied, with tasks spanning across three locations on the Boston Medical Center campus. Additionally, I really enjoyed the emphasis on long-term projects and seeing the results of the study through.

Hannah's office space.
Our office space, featuring three other lab members and our weekly kidney joke!

My favorite part of the job was seeing the patients. It was so fun learning more about each patient—beyond their patient folders—and talking with each one about their day. I also got the opportunity to shadow a nephrologist. This experience was invaluable because it made me more thoughtful about what a career in medicine might mean. Originally, I sought a career in medicine because I wanted to work in oncology. Cancer has impacted my family, and I wanted the opportunity to help individuals through their hardest times. In my eyes, nephrology is a similar specialty; kidney disease is a grave illness and often stresses long-term care in the same way that cancer treatment does. The days that I shadowed, we saw a patient with polycystic kidney disease, a patient with 9% kidney function, and a patient who was simultaneously battling both cancer and kidney disease. The doctor I was shadowing was incredibly kind and clearly had a good relationship with each of his patients. This is hard to balance when thinking about how grave these diagnoses can be, and as I left, I was thinking about how a life-shattering diagnosis for a patient can be just another day in the office for a practitioner. The idea of bedside manner and desensitization are central concerns for me as I look at my potential future in medicine; and I will continue to think about how great doctors are empathetic to patients while maintaining a professional distance.

I was talking to a Williams alum who got her MD/Ph.D. and her 
advice for choosing between MD or Ph.D. was simply whether I wanted patients to be part of my day-to-day. I now know I absolutely love working with patients, which I determined through my patient-facing research internship. I am excited to continue assessing my future plans, and I’m very grateful to the Class of 1966 for sponsoring me in this opportunity. I would also like to thank the Williams College ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their guidance and support.