IAP Health: Emily Chen (’21)
This past IAP, I worked on the research team for Boston Medical Center’s Autism Program and conducted qualitative research to analyze the effects of a mentoring-centric program that BMC has held for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for 5 years now. On the day to day, this meant coding around 250 pages of transcripts of reflections from past participants and their parents, engaging in consistent check ins to ensure reliability across our team, and analyzing our codes to find trends that could shed insight on the effects of this program. Reading through all of the reflections, I felt as if I were gifted with a magical window into the lives of all of the students in the program at BMC. Our work will be used to both shape future iterations of this program at BMC and inform other healthcare workers or program coordinators on how to create an inclusion environment that stimulates growth for children with ASD.
When I think back on these past 4 weeks, while my everyday was occupied by coding and the compilation of our research, my greatest takeaways and most vivid impression from my time at BMC emerged from the weekly internal physician GRAND rounds (lectures and differential diagnoses), the shadowing experience, and the many team meetings. From both a personal and professional perspective, working at BMC reminded me of the kind of work environment that I love being a part of: one that is purpose driven, collaborative, and for the people. My academic journey at MIT has challenged and equipped me with the know-how of how to approach and decipher complex problems. However, while MIT has broadened my perspective to different technical tools and made me aware of the multitude of problems that have yet to be solved, I had come into this IAP still feeling very much disconnected from the various communities that I know I want to serve in the future. These past few weeks gave me a chance to interact with families from a diverse set of backgrounds and while my interactions with each of our patients were limited in time, these opportunities to listen to their stories brought me closer to the communities I look forward to serving and simultaneously deepened my understanding of the larger issues still at play — within and external to the healthcare system in America — that I hope to tackle in the future. At the same time, while many of the systemic issues at the root of the problems our patients faced daily can seem formidable, the “small” changes that BMC pushed for — whether providing families with stability in food, resources, or access to quality healthcare — reminded me of the change that individuals, or individual organizations, can still make.
This IAP at BMC reminded me that nothing is too small to be worth doing, and if we focus on what we can control, it’s incredible the change that can still be achieved.