SFS Interns Are Loving The Lab and Surgery

Isabella O'Shea '18 has been excited about participating in a summer internship with Brooks School's Students on the Forefront of Science (SFS) ever since she was a prospective student. And when she found out that she'd been selected for the competitive program this spring, she said she couldn't have been happier ("I just think it's the coolest thing!" said the aspiring doctor). Turns out she was wrong.

Working with physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital for her SFS internship has thrilled her more than she'd imagined — even when it became the stuff of horror movies.

"I've seen a lot of craniotomies," explained O'Shea — who has been observing and working with a neurosurgeon in the Perioperative Department — during a check-in visit last week with SFS director, Mary Jo Carabatsos, Brooks dean of teaching and learning. "They're very bloody but they're awesome. I'm enjoying it all! It's been so awesome. There was this one day that stands out, though."

The rising sixth-former had joined residents from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital dedicated to eye, ear, nose, throat, head and neck treatment and research) for a training exercise. "We went into a room that was something like 15, 20 cubicles with desks," she said. "And there was a human head on each desk! They were all people who had donated their body to science, to research."

Shocked but undaunted, O'Shea said, "I was like 'Oh [deep breath], oh.' Then they started practicing procedures and I was right there doing it too. I couldn't get close enough!"

From left: Diane Lee '18, Isabella O'Shea '18 and Madison Dunn '18 are interning at Massachusetts General Hospital this summer through Brooks School's Students on the Forefront of Science program.

The mission of SFS, after all, is hands on: to provide rising sixth-formers with innovative experiences that expose them to research, technology and advanced studies in the sciences. The 10 participating students, selected this year from 26 applicants, work with and perform real research alongside doctors, residents and postdoctoral students for eight weeks.

Visit Brooks School's Students on the Forefront of Science internship program page to learn more about the impressive opportunities and hear from students who've participated.

O'Shea and fellow Brooks SFS interns Madison Dunn '18 and Diane Lee '18 have been observing different types of surgeries, working in the lab and attending Grand Rounds in the Perioperative Department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) during their internships. The postings are offered with the help of Madison's father, Peter Dunn '82, P'11, P'13, P'15, P'18, Vice President, Perioperative Services and Healthcare Systems Engineering at MGH (shown below, on right).

(The other SFS interns are working in different locations on varied opportunities: Claire McCabe '18 is participating in a rotation of orthopedic medicine at Tufts Medical Center, also in Boston. Melany Blanco '18 is working in the psychiatric neuroimaging laboratory of Brigham and Women's Hospital nearby, while Jameson Lehrer '18 just returned from his biodiversity conservation internship with the Quebec Labrador Foundation in Newfoundland, Canada. Four additional students are interning in an engineering technology camp in Cupertino, California: Brian Choi '18, Tim Zhao '18, Henry Goodman '18, and Max Charlamb '18.)

Madison Dunn echoed O'Shea's rave review of her experience at MGH so far. "I've been helping with the experiments with mice and pain receptors in the anesthesia lab," she said. "I observe the mice and record data and I'm in the operating room twice a week." One highlight of her internship so far? Observing an orthopedic procedure. "They were hammering away at the bones," marveled Dunn, whose older siblings Matt '11, Chandler '13 and Morgan '15 were all SFS interns as well. "It was cool to see."

Read about Morgan Dunn '15 and her amazing SFS experience studying the mutations in the DNA of potassium channels as an intern at MGH in 2014 here.

A Gray's Anatomy fan, Dunn said that this experience has been especially meaningful for her in the way that it has turned her expectations of medicine upside down. "It's really interesting to me, and nice, to see what it's really like working at a hospital," she said. "I used to think my dad just puts people to sleep. Now I know that anesthesia is much more complicated than that — and it's been cool to be a part of getting close to figuring out how anesthesia actually works."

Diane Lee '18 agreed that "it's super cool to see what everyone is doing in the labs." Through her internship she is working with researchers putting mutations into yeast and "juggling four, five projects at a time." Yet the professionals have been generous with their time. "Everyone is willing to answer questions," she said. "I've been in the operating room observing rat and frog surgeries and the doctor walks me through the steps. It's great. And the lab part of it is so much more fun than I thought it would be. There's incredible stuff happening there."

Now Lee, who is bunking at Harvard University this summer and taking a neurobiology class, said she knows that in the future she wants to do both lab and operating room work.

"Most people have to go through their whole college career to get this experience and know what they want to do in medicine," said Peter Dunn, praising the real-world benefit of the SFS program. He helps facilitate the MGH internships because he said, "I want people to love science and healthcare. I want to give them exposure to what that really means; what that's really like. This isn't the kind of environment that you're going to be happy in if you don't love it."

SFS director Carabatsos said roughly 35 to 40 percent of students who go through SFS end up working in science-related fields: "It is our strong belief that a hands-on research opportunity in a lab or field setting will best encourage students to continue in the field of science."

Thanks to SFS, Dunn too has narrowed down her future plans. Through this summer experience she's realized that full-time in a research lab isn't for her, but she said that the "fascinating" operating room could be.

As for O'Shea (shown above), she's more laser focused than ever. "I definitely want to go to medical school," she said. "This internship has been a complete confirmation of that. I love it!" Even after the SFS program ends in early August, O'Shea hopes to continue working at MGH — by volunteering on her own.

Visit our Students on the Forefront page to learn more about the internship program, participants' experiences, and how students can get involved.

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