I am a part of the WashU course called PEMRAP (Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research Associates’ Program). Every Monday, there is a two-hour lecture at St. Louis Children’s hospital to learn and be updated on current research studies taking place in the emergency unit. After learning about the studies I am able to help enroll patients into the studies and gather information in the Emergency Department. I do about two four-hour shifts per week, participating in study enrollment and observing the workings of the ED. I also am given the option of extra shadowing shifts of residents, fellows or hospitalists in a two-hour period if I choose to do so.
2) How did you get involved with this program?
I found out about the course through my pre-health advisor. I then did some research, talked to past PEMRAP students, and decided that it would be a good fit for me. I had to fill out an application before registration, and then wait to be notified if I would be enrolled or not [there is a maximum limit of students allowed in per semester].
3) What advice would you give a student trying to get involved in undergraduate research?
It was really hard for me to initially dive in to research. I had talked to some professors and advisors about getting involved in benchwork, but it wasn’t something that really excited me. PEMRAP is much more hands on in the ED - with research and shadowing opportunities, I get the best of both worlds. When trying to get involved, I would say find out what is best for you and not what others are doing around you. It’s much better to find your own path and something that truly interests and stimulates you. I would also advise to not jump at the first opportunity you receive, but rather look around first until you find that perfect fit.
4) What has been the most rewarding thing about your participation in PEMRAP?
The research really depends on who comes into the ED, because if no one is eligible that day, your role as an RA is more minimal. However, it is really rewarding to think about it big picture. These studies are working towards finding better treatments, and possibly cures, for very rare or very common medical issues in young children. With each patient enrolled, I can further help move the study along, hopefully making a positive effect on the future.
5) How has your research role prepared you for post-grad life?
The reason I chose PEMRAP was for the hands-on aspect as well as the hospital environment. After a gap year, I am planning on going to medical school. PEMRAP has done a few things to prepare me for this future. It has deepened my interest and my desire in the medical field, especially with pediatrics; I know that this is the atmosphere and the field that I would be most comfortable in and most rewarding. I had never really had a hospital-shadowing environment, since I have just shadowed in smaller offices at home. Now, I feel much more comfortable and confident that this is the place I really belong.
6) What is the hardest thing about being involved in research?
The toughest thing about being involved in research is remembering that not all patients are going to want to participate in the studies. Even though they might be eligible, and the study might be very pertinent to their issues, some patients feel uncomfortable or are unwilling. This is completely understandable, as I don’t know how comfortable I would always be to participate depending on my current health at the time. However, it is always a moment of disappointment when you have the perfect candidate for an important study and they just don’t want to do it.
Interested in research but unsure of how to get involved? Try ScholarBridge, a free resource that connects interested students with available research positions on campuses across the United States