Becoming a Better Scientist Lucy Worthy ’24 is conducting clinical research and shadowing a physician at the Mayo Clinic.
Name: Lucy Worthy ’24
Hometown: St. Simon’s Island, Georgia
Minor: Environmental Studies
Q: What factors led you to choose W&L?
I came from a high school with a graduating class of about 40 students, so small class sizes and a close-knit community were important to me. An academically rigorous university was also a priority to me, as I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded students. W&L matched all of these criteria and more, so it was an obvious choice to me.
Q: Why did you choose to study biology and environmental studies?
I’ve always been interested in biology and the sciences, so I took BIO 111 my first semester of freshman year. After meeting Biology Professor Bill Hamilton and eventually conducting research with him, I felt that biology, out of all the science majors, was the best fit for me. Additionally, many of the biology degree requirements align with pre-health career requirements, so that was another factor influencing my decision. On the other hand, for my minor, I happened to take the intro to environmental studies course and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I really like how environmental studies combines the humanities and science and intertwines academics with my love and appreciation of the outdoors.
Q: How did you find out about this summer research opportunity at the Mayo Clinic? Did anyone at W&L help?
I was talking to an alumnus, Dr. Joseph Bestic, at a women’s soccer ID clinic because his daughter played for the same club that I did growing up. When he learned that I am on the pre-med track, he mentioned to me that he works at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and that if I ever wanted to shadow him, I should reach out. After some email correspondence, he emailed me the link to the Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus’ Clinical Research Internship Study Program (CRISP). I applied and was accepted to the program.
Q: What kind of work are you doing?
This is a clinical research internship, so the goal is to learn the process of conducting clinical research and present your findings to the other interns by the end of the summer at a poster symposium. I was matched with a pain management physician who also happens to be an alumnus, Dr. Mark Hurdle. He is my mentor for the duration of the 10-week program. To gain some exposure to what he does as a pain management physician, I have shadowed him during his procedures. This helps me have a visual idea of what the clinical studies and technique papers that I am reading are describing. Currently, I am reading studies on facet joint denervation, the thoracic spine and the anatomy of its medial branches, and ultrasound-guided spinal procedures to compile enough sources to write a paper on a new technique. In collaboration with Dr. Hurdle, our hope is to demonstrate this technique on a cadaver and eventually publish a paper. Dr. Hurdle’s goal for me is to gain as much experience as I can within these 10 weeks, so he has continually set up opportunities for me to shadow other departments in the Mayo Clinic, learn how to write a clinical paper, and gain exposure to the cadaver lab and other resources the Mayo Clinic has. The program also sets up weekly lectures with topics on graduate school admissions, medical school admissions and applications, goal setting, academic success and Q&A sessions with physicians, nurses, physical therapists and other health care workers.
Q: What do you like most about it, and what has been most challenging so far?
I like how the Mayo Clinic is an academic institution. Not only are students always learning, but the physicians themselves are always learning. I am grateful for how much exposure I am getting to the medical field so I can really see what it is like to be a full-time physician. This internship is pushing me outside of my comfort zone because I am so inexperienced in clinical research and lack so much medical knowledge. The most challenging part for me has been getting past the fear of asking too many questions because that’s what I need to do to get the most out of this program. Luckily, my mentor has been a great guide to me and has already given me so much knowledge and advice.
Q: Tell us about previous summer experiences you’ve had at W&L.
Last summer I did eight weeks of research with Professor Hamilton as part of his continuing study on the effect of grazers in Yellowstone’s ecosystem. Six of those weeks were on campus in his lab and two of those weeks were in Yellowstone National Park doing field work. What was cool about last summer was that I got to see all sides of conducting research, from collecting and processing samples to translating them into data and eventually interpreting results. I really enjoyed going to Yellowstone National Park because we had the opportunity to experience the park by hiking and sight-seeing while doing research. Because we were with the bison crew, we got to go off-trail, which is typically not allowed for normal visitors in the park. Overall, that experience helped me become a better scientist.
Q: How do you think your summer experiences will impact your future career path?
I think that by the end of my 10-week program, I should really be able to determine if a career in health care is something I truly want to pursue. If I decide to continue my path towards medical school, I think this experience will make me a strong applicant and provide plenty of talking points in interviews. Since Dr. Hurdle’s goal is to have my name on a published paper, the results of this experience could open doors into many different careers in the health care world. The connections I have made with my mentor, Dr. Hurdle, and other physicians will also be such a good resource for me as I navigate the world of medicine.
Q: Outside of your internship, what have you enjoyed the most about living and working in Jacksonville?
Jacksonville is only an hour and a half from my hometown, so I always have the option to go home on the weekends and see my family, which is nice because I’m typically so far away during the school year. I also grew up playing club soccer in Jacksonville, so I have been able to spend plenty of time with my old teammates, which is really rare since everyone’s school year is so busy. I’ve really enjoyed practicing with my old teammates and coaches because the environment is so fun and low-pressure. I’ve also loved being in a bigger city because I have never lived in a city larger than St. Simons or Lexington. It’s nice to have direct access to shops that I would typically have to order online from and grocery stores and restaurants that I usually could only go to on special occasions.
Q: What do you miss most about W&L when you’re away for the summer?
I miss the constant friendly faces and always knowing someone when you walk around on campus. It’s hard not being a couple steps away from all your best friends. I also miss being surrounded by mountains and having access to trails like the Chessie Nature Trail and the Woods Creek Trail.
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