Cognitive Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

Inflammation-Induced CNS Glutamate During Breast Cancer Treatment

Emory University Behavioral Immunology Program

March 2015-June 2018

Background

The Behavioral Immunology Program specializes in research on the cognitive-behavioral effects of inflammation. I joined the team as a research coordinator to manage a new study on how the inflammatory effects of breast cancer and its treatment impacted patients' mood, cognitive functioning, and fatigue. 
The study used cognitive tests, behavioral assessments, MRI scans, and blood samples to compare patients with and without chemotherapy, as well as healthy controls. As the study coordinator, my job was to make it all happen.

Recruitment

I reviewed electronic medical records to identify eligible patients and collaborated with their oncologists to refer them to our program. I also recruited healthy controls with advertisements on social media. 
I conducted 30-minute telephone prescreen surveys assessing their medical and psychiatric histories and medications for study eligibility. I then scheduled those who met criteria for consent and further screening.
In total I enrolled 130 participants.

Procedures

After participants passed screening,
I scheduled them for 8-hour visits where I:
  • Escorted participants to MRI scans and blood draws (I even processed blood!)
     
  • Administered surveys assessing symptoms of depression and fatigue
     
  • Conducted cognitive tests on functions like memory, visuospatial processing, attention, and reaction time

Management

In addition to scheduling and running participants, I maintained study databases and compiled regular reports for investigators. I also managed all regulatory documentation for the study, including maintaining study records, submitting  amendments, and preparing for audits.
I was also responsible for finances and handled accounting and replenishment
of participant payment funds.

In Conclusion

I started working at Emory when this project was just beginning and saw it through to completion. In that time I learned a lot about conducting clinical research and the value of effective teamwork, communication, and planning.
But I also connected with some incredible patients and learned about their struggles and successes with mental and physical health. Working in a large hospital also exposed me to the functions (and dysfunctions) of a healthcare system. Ultimately my experience sparked an interest in health and wellness that I want to continue exploring.
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