Madison LaCasse ’22

Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Neurointestinal Health, Boston, MA

This summer I had the opportunity to intern with the MGH Center for Neurointestinal Health, working in both clinical research and shadowing physicians. The Center for Neurointestinal Health specializes in treating and researching disorders of the gut-brain interaction, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cyclical vomiting syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and more. These disorders, while manifesting largely in gastrointestinal symptoms, have a significant neurological component, and thus this center treats their patients from a neurogastroenterology perspective, addressing and continuing to research the role of both the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract in perpetuating these chronic and often debilitating disorders. The work this group of providers and researchers is doing is vitally important to the field because stigma and a significant lack of research surrounds these particular gastrointestinal disorders, as until very recently popular opinion classified these disorders as simply “all in someone’s head.” To address this stigma and thus the frequent lack of treatment for these populations, the team at MGH works to conduct research studies and clinical trials in their patient population and to treat their patients based on the new information they learn. The end goal is to improve the daily lives and functioning of people with neurogastrointestinal disorders, so that they can live full and rich lives without the chronic pain, anxiety, and stress that these disorders can cause.

In my internship I was able to participate in both clinical research and clinical observation. I built data dictionaries and assembled study questionnaires; conducted post-treatment qualitative interviews with patients finishing up a cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) for IBS; and conducted chart reviews for studies on eating disorders and IBS, endometriosis and IBS, and CBT treatment for IBS. I also completed my own literature review on the overlap between endometriosis and IBS and presented this information to the group at the end of the summer. In addition, I spent five full days in the clinic shadowing four different MDs, a Nurse Practitioner, and a GI Behavioral Health Provider, which provided me with a great learning experience as well.

This internship was exactly what I was looking for in terms of gaining both clinical research and clinical practice skills and learning how medicine and psychology overlap, something that is important to me since I am a psychology major who wants to become a physician. I was able to see how psychologists and doctors work together and to see how doctors can and do use psychology every day in their medical practice in this field. Lastly, since I have plans to become a clinical research coordinator (CRC) in a clinical research lab prior to medical school, it was a great experience interning in a clinical lab and getting to observe the daily responsibilities and activities of a CRC.

I want to thank the Kraft Family and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for supporting my work at MGH this summer. I appreciate this opportunity tremendously.