Olivia Straw ’22

Oregon Health & Science University, Geriatrics Department, Portland, OR

This summer I worked with Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom and her geriatric research team at Oregon Health & Science University. I was able to work on many different projects, including studies about long Covid, the Mediterranean Diet, fall prevention, and opiate prescription in older adults.

Testing out some Mediterranean diet recipes.

The long Covid project focused on interviews with patients and their family members/caretakers to better understand what their experience has been like. My role was to call patients to recruit them for the study, transcribe interviews, and code interviews so that the information can be summarized. Through this work, I learned so much about the variety of symptoms that people have with long Covid as well as their experiences with healthcare through this sickness.

One other summer intern and I started the Mediterranean Diet project together. We went to grocery stores in low-income areas in Portland and studied the prices and availability of healthy ingredients commonly used in the Mediterranean diet. We also collected recipes and scientific papers about the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet. I created a pamphlet to pass out to patients that had a description of the diet, a list of common ingredients, a list of good substitutions for common unhealthy American foods, and a list of seasonally available local foods. In addition, the pamphlet had three cheap and easy recipes that could be a full meal which I tested and photographed.

Working on a Python program to study opiate prescription in geriatric patients.

In addition, I performed chart reviews for the fall prevention study, looking for candidates to be recruited in the study. This process helped me learn a lot about how to read and interpret patient charts as well as some experience with how to use Epic, a common program used in the medical world.

Lastly, for the opiate prescription project, I helped process data using a short Python program I wrote as well as helping to run a logistic regression on the data using R. Having just taken intro to computer science, it was fun to have an opportunity to apply my skills in a useful real-life scenario. Working in R gave me a chance to apply problem solving skills and helped me learn a lot about the language itself which I am sure will be useful in the future.

Not only did this internship help me to gain knowledge about the medical world, but it also helped me to learn useful skills that I can hopefully apply to my own research once I am a doctor. Helping practicing clinicians with their research helped me to see that research is incredibly important to keep medicine moving forward and to keep doctors engaged in the everchanging world of medicine. I love doing research, and this internship helped me to decide that I want to pursue research in my post-graduate years before I go to medical school.

Thank you to all those who helped in providing this wonderful opportunity; I am so grateful for the experience.