IAP Health: Kate Przydzial (’23)

Hello! My name is Kate Przydzial and I’m currently a sophomore at MIT studying Chemistry and Biology. This IAP, I was given the opportunity to intern with the Program Team at the Boston Medical Center Autism Program. I was extremely grateful when I received the email inviting me to participate but also surprised and more than a little nervous. After a pretty trying fully remote fall semester, I was worried that taking on a full-time remote internship would be overwhelming and draining. However, my time with the Autism Program was anything but. The BMC staff are incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed my four weeks in the program due to both their support and the wide variety of educational opportunities offered to BMC affiliates.

My IAP workspace! Not pictured: the various couches and armchairs around my house that I also frequented.

Over the course of IAP, I got a chance to take part in a number of different projects both within the Program Team and alongside a BMC research team. Within the Program Team, my fellow intern Ria and I created surveys for healthcare providers and the other interns in our program and then analyzed the responses in an attempt to better understand the effects of the pandemic on developmental pediatric care. We also created an educational resource about the COVID-19 vaccines in the form of a Q&A document aimed at the families served by the Autism Program. 

With the BMC research team, we helped to analyze interview transcripts and lay the groundwork for the team to do further research. The project’s ultimate goal is to create an effective method of diagnosing ASD more quickly. Currently, the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics department at the BMC has an approximately nine month long waiting list, meaning that families have to wait for nearly a year before receiving an official diagnosis. Besides the stress caused to the families by the uncertainty around their child’s situation, not having an official diagnosis can prevent children from getting the care they need to make their lives easier.

Working on all of those projects simultaneously allowed me to gain a really broad sense of the work being done by the BMC to help families. By reading interview transcripts and shadowing BMC physicians, I got to see firsthand the experience of children and families before, during, and after a child’s diagnosis. By attending BMC staff lectures, I got to learn more about the situations and systems that make it difficult for families to receive quality healthcare. By creating an educational vaccine Q&A, I got to try and put myself in the place of those families, to try and imagine the questions and fears they may have. I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to learn so much about so many different facets of the healthcare system. Although I don’t intend to pursue medicine as a profession, the empathy and kindness displayed by the BMC staff towards their patients will serve as a model for me in whatever path I choose to pursue.

A slide from one of the lectures I attended about building an equitable healthcare system.

Through working at the BMC, I learned how rewarding it is to work for an organization whose values are so closely aligned with my own. Everywhere I went at the BMC, from meetings with the Autism Program staff to Center-wide lectures, to meetings with physicians from the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics department, the message was consistent and clear: the BMC exists to improve the lives of its patients in any way possible. In addition to providing medical care, the BMC has established programs such as a preventative food pantry to ensure that none of their families go hungry, free tax services to help families receive the benefits they deserve, and a teaching kitchen where families can learn to make meals that are low-cost and healthy. I hope to someday work somewhere that seeks to do that much good in the world. I am so glad to have gotten the chance to participate in this program over the past four weeks and I hope anyone reading this is encouraged to get involved with the BMC or an organization like it!

Tags: Autism, Health, Health & Medicine, IAP Health, IAP Health 2021

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