The Lupus Foundation of Minnesota Fellowship was (no exaggeration) the most productive, meaningful, and inspirational experience I could have imagined my summer to be. Not only did I gain research experience and scientific communication skills, but I met peers, mentors, and patients who impacted my perspective on clinical and translational research.
Having the opportunity to interact with patients during my fellowship (with the courtesy of my PI, Dr. Erik Peterson) significantly and positively affected my fellowship experience. I am not at liberty to write about any specific patients, but I will say that every patient I met moved me. The clinic for Rheumatology and Autoimmune Diseases sees patients living with various diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, colitis, gout, lupus, and many more patients suffering with complex and/or chronic conditions. The causes for most of these diseases are still unknown, and we have not found cures. There are treatments, but there is still a lot that needs to be learned about how exactly these treatments function on a molecular or biochemical level. Not only that, but treatment effectiveness varies greatly from person to person; so, just because a treatment method works for one patient doesn’t mean it will work for others.
Speaking to these patients and listening to their symptoms and their physical and mental pain gave me additional motivation for research: “These are the people I am trying to help.”
Watching Dr. Peterson working with the patients to help them live with their conditions with the least impact on their daily lives as possible, I realize how much a doctor can help a patient, not only medically, but emotionally. At the same time, it also makes me realize (especially in a rheumatology clinic,) the things that no one has any control over, no matter how much knowledge or training you have. But, with the realization that most things cannot be helped, I feel that it makes me want to work even harder on all of the things (like research) that can potentially help patients.
When I thanked patients for their participation in our study, the patients often said to me: “whatever I can do to help other people from going through what I’ve been through.” This is very encouraging, as this gives me the notion that everyone feels the same way. Working with motivated people including health care providers, researchers, sponsors, and patients, I am hopeful that we may be able to make a difference in the quality of life for many patients.
Only when all of these people work together can we be successful with our mission. It is because of these people that we have been able to bring some patient voices to be studied for research and for patient samples to be provided to researchers to study. This is the “bed to bench” part, and it is important that this continues. However, our ultimate goal is to further our research, so that we can bring the research we do to patients as treatments. This is the “bench to bed” part.
This is the goal of clinical and translational research: to help in the translation of voices and samples from bed to bench and in the translation of research from bench to bed.