Catherine MacLean, Class of 2014

Major: Biology, SiSP; Organization: The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare/Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation; Location: Boston, MA / Rockville, MD

Catherine MacLean, Class of 2014

This summer, my weeks were divided between two organizations with two wonderful missions, both tied to improving the healthcare system and experience. Monday-Wednesday I was at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare and Thursday and Friday I worked from home for the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation. 

At the Schwartz Center, I aided the Programs staff with a huge variety of tasks. I helped compile information from reports returned by grant recipients into a table and then into graphs and other metric displays. I participated in meetings about a forthcoming book project for the center. I reviewed evaluation sheets from hospitals that participate in the Schwartz Center Rounds program, and compiled comments from healthcare professionals into a document that will be used to promote the Rounds program to more hospitals. I also aided in updating database contact information, and administering the Compassionate Caregiver Award program by helping to distribute materials to the Award review committee and contacting Award nominees. The entire staff of the Schwartz Center was welcoming and kind. Just spending time at the center made me aware of so many programs and opportunities that exist to make healthcare more compassionate, so that both practitioners and patients have a better experience. I was inspired by the dedication of the center's staff and the healthcare workers in the member centers. Working at the Schwartz Center gave me a much deeper understanding of what compassionate care means: allowing emotion and humanity into the practice of medicine, and supporting practitioners and patients alike through difficult and complicated situations. I learned so much about the day-to-day workings of a health non-profit and the business of managing such a large number of projects and locations (Schwartz Rounds are in more than 300 hospitals in the US and are beginning to expand in the UK as well). 

For AA&MDSIF, I was given an enormous amount of independence in designing young adult educational materials. The Foundation has begun to extend more child-specific resources but did not have much for young adults. The main focus of this effort was looking at the transition from pediatric to adult health care for those with bone marrow failure syndromes. I interviewed a number of doctors and nurse practitioners at top centers around the country (and was asked several times if this was research for a PhD thesis), and designed a survey for both patients and their parents/guardians about health care transitions. From the results of the survey, a facebook group for young adults with bone marrow failure was launched and a resource page for young adults making the health care transition was added to the AA&MDSIF website. Along with staff at the Foundation we got together a Young Adult Advisory committee and held one conference call to discuss opinions on YA issues and the potential for YA specific programming at the regional conferences hosted by 2014. These activities are all ongoing and it is my hope that a vibrant YA community will arise from the facebook group and conference programming. 

I was able to visit the AA&MDSIF headquarters in Rockville, MD in August, and the trip was fantastic. I had the chance to finalize some of the materials I made and to present for their entire staff on the work I did. It was wonderful to meet, or see again, the incredible people who work at the organization.

My projects at AA&MDSIF taught me a lot about scheduling and conducting phone interviews, analyzing survey data, and creating accessible materials and resources. Being able to create materials that will help young adults who have faced the same issues as I have was very gratifying, and I look forward to getting to know this community better.

My work this summer has solidified my desire to work in health care education and policy so that I can be an even more active participant in creating a healthcare system that is accessible, compassionate, holistic, and beneficial to all. Additionally, I now have developed so many skills that will enable me to work in this area and give me the qualifications necessary to succeed. I am so thankful for the Summer Experience Grant, because none of the incredible experiences I had this summer, or the skills I've gained, or the inspiration and connections, would have been possible without it.