The Columns

From Lab to Rescue Squad Ethiopia Getachew ’19 always had an interest in science, but working in the biochemistry lab and volunteering with local EMTs helped her future plans take shape.

— by on November 28th, 2017

“I had always been interested in how things operated in the biochemical and molecular level, but working as an HHMI Fellow the past two years really piqued my interest. “

Ethiopia Getachew ’19 (Photo by Alison Christiana, Questbridge)

Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Westwood, MA
Major: Biology

My Washington and Lee experience is a summary of all the opportunities afforded to me and how I took advantage of them. Through my experience at W&L, I have made amazing friends that I know will be there for so many years on. Some were on my hall my first year and our friendship is going three years strong; others I met through my classes, social events, clubs and organizations and much more. Academically and professionally, I have pursued my interests with the support and encouragement of professors, faculty, friends and family.

Some highlights so far include my HHMI research in Professor LaRiviere’s lab and getting involved with the Lexington community as an EMT. As part of my research with Professor LaRiviere I learned to conduct my own independent research, make experimental decisions based on data, and read and assess scientific papers. I had always been interested in how things operated in the biochemical and molecular level, but working as an HHMI Fellow the past two years really piqued my interest. In the lab, I am currently working on assessing how nitrogen starvation affects this ribosomal degradation pathway called NRD (nonfunctional rRNA decay) that was actually discovered originally by Professor LaRiviere and his colleagues. Working with other students in the lab has also taught me how to work with a team in a scientific setting. All together this experience has shown me that while I am still very interested in becoming a doctor, I would still love to incorporate research into my future and perhaps pursue a career more focused on translational medicine.

During my summer in Lexington, while I was not in the lab, I volunteered at the Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital, as well as at the Lexington Fire Department. I had recently finished my EMT course at the SVU campus and got my EMT certification, so I was very excited to start running with the rescue squad. I went on ridealongs with them and learned how to conduct myself in crisis situations, help those in some of the scariest moments of their lives and provide a caring and professional persona. The paramedics and EMTs guided me through this process and allowed me to feel included in their department.

Additionally, some of our calls allowed me to further understand the local area and see beyond the Washington and Lee bubble I sometimes find myself in. We usually dropped off patients at the Stonewall Jackson hospital and left; this left me wondering what happened after. Thus, I started volunteering at the hospital in the Emergency Department as well as the Medical/Surgical floor. With this, I was able to see yet another side to medicine. I talked to family members who came to visit their loved ones, I spent time with some of the patients and gave them blankets, water… as needed. I saw how the nurses and doctors interacted with the patients and learned so much about the field I was excited to get into. Coupling these two experiences in town with my research gave me a really unique and interesting summer experience. It reaffirmed my interest in medicine and science and made the Lexington community feel simultaneously bigger and closer for me.

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