My name is Joseph Pagliarulo and this summer I interned at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VA) in Bedford Massachusetts and Seven Hills Pediatric Center in Groton Massachusetts. I had the opportunity to intern at the Bedford VA not only this summer, but the prior two summers as well. Last summer, I was a genetics research assistant under the supervision of Karen Smith, Pharm.D., and John Wells, Ph.D. At the end of last summer, I inquired into potential opportunities the following summer more directly related to genetic counseling. They subsequently introduced me to Dr. Julie Lynch and informed me of her projects that investigate the efficacy and utilization of genetic testing for veterans. I discovered my second internship at Seven Hills Pediatric Center through hearing about it from my neighbor who works there full time. As I was extremely interested in helping people with disabilities, I then spoke with the volunteer coordinator there and was awarded a volunteer position.
My responsibilities so far at the Bedford VA have consisted of compiling and creating information in order to prepare for the eventual writing of a publishable scientific paper. My first project was to familiarize myself with a multitude of genetic disorders and their accompanying insurance codes, as the insurance codes are used to search for data within the VA system. Next, I compiled more detailed information on neurological genetic disorders, paying special attention to what a patient’s visit to a doctor would look like if they had this disease and were not yet diagnosed. The last project which I have worked on was to compile all of the information I gathered to write up case studies based on what symptoms a typical patient with the neurological genetic disorder would present. Once I gain the proper credentials at the VA, I will begin an exciting project analyzing genetic testing utilization data from veterans who have been treated in the VA system.
My responsibilities so far at Seven Hills Pediatric Center have largely involved working directly with the residents there. During the times which I volunteer, the residents engage with workers and volunteers in a classroom setting. Every day there is a special activity in the classrooms, usually involving baking, arts and crafts, community work, or relaxation. Additionally, each resident has a different sensory goal, which may change based on how they progress. The sensory goal involves using visual (for example a light up object), auditory (music, sound books, sound objects), olfactory (the food we bake, flowers, essential oils), tactile (using differently textured objects), and kinetic (moving the residents around the classroom in their wheelchairs) stimuli and allowing them to choose their preference based on their responses.
Having the opportunity to explore a different type of research at the Bedford VA, health services research, gave me a whole different outlook on the capabilities of genetic research and scientific research as a whole. Beyond Skidmore, this internship will be of great assistance in my genetic counseling career. Understanding the process behind which the scientific community discovers the most beneficial ways to go about patient care is an invaluable background for genetic counseling. Additionally, the opportunity to help those with disabilities has been a rewarding experience, and I hope to continue work like this in the future. Through this experience, I have gained a thorough understanding of how to address varied and complex patient needs, which I will take into my future career as a genetic counselor.