Entries in pre-med (1)

Wednesday
Apr012015

Shadowing physicians and the impact of imaging on patients

Through collaborations with the Hooker Lab, I have been fortunate enough to shadow doctors who have specialized in different fields of medicine.  I am often asked what I learn from these observational visits. Besides witnessing doctor-patient encounters and getting a glimpse into what being a doctor entails, I have noticed how key components in clinical medicine overlap with ongoing research projects within the Hooker Lab. Clinical research plays a critical role in medical advances.  I know that I certainly enjoy reading the latest findings in medical research, but I was surprised to see the frequency in which patients come to doctors with newspaper clippings or printouts on recent studies.  For instance, a patient mentioned a newspaper article promoting the wonders of a recently published study in which tetanus vaccine in glioblastoma patients increased survival time and slowed tumor progression. The news article did not address the limitations of the research, including the issue of a small sample size and the fact that participants were required to have met strict eligibility criteria.  Therefore, it is important for doctors to be aware of the latest medical developments to help patients understand the limitations to the generalizability and realistic implications of research findings.

Many of the studies being conducted within our research group involve imaging techniques, which are widely used in medicine for making diagnoses, as tools during surgical or interventional procedures, and for monitoring specific cancers and other medical conditions.  The images obtained from scans can also evoke emotional responses from patients. This was the case when a patient, who had previously undergone surgery and treatments for a brain tumor, viewed an MRI brain scan revealing that the cancer was still kept at bay ten years later.

The role of imaging in medicine benefits both clinicians and patients, but there are still limitations to these techniques (e.g., with MRI, it is difficult to distinguish recurrent cancer cells from those of inflammation due to treatment).  This is why it is important to continue research aimed at improving imaging methods, particularly through designing radiotracers with targets that will help improve diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. 

-AB