2019 Myers Fellowship Award Winner

AHNS Myers Family Minority Fellowship Experience
Ezinne Urechukwu Agwaramgbo

This research experience has been helpful in allowing me to explore the field of otolaryngology. Throughout the summer, I worked closely with Dr. Franzmann and her team to learn about how she works up each patient. Using the electronic medical record to pre-screen for potential patients to enroll in our research study, I was able to track patients from initial biopsy to surgical intervention and eventually follow up. I was even able to scrub in on some of these surgeries and see a Mohs procedure for the removal of a basal cell carcinoma. I enjoyed being able to observe different parts to the patient’s care and talk with them about their experiences dealing with cancer.

One patient with an oropharyngeal cancer told me about how eating had become a chore for him. Swallowing is painful and food lacks the taste it once had. Because of this, eating a small plate of food took him two hours to eat. Hearing these stories made me aware of cancer ‘s ability to seed itself not only throughout the body but also into a person’s daily life, transforming their routines to fit around their new normal.

My time was split between pre-screening patients and running patient samples in the lab. I learned the protocols on how to run an ELISA assay and RAPID p16 test. In addition, I also helped revise portions of the study protocol to be submitted to IRB. This process taught me more about the regulatory bodies involved in the IRB submission process and gave me a chance to work on improving my scientific writing. Scientific writing is very technical, so it takes practice to be able to write in a way that specifically conveys your results and conclusions without suggesting alternate interpretations. It is a skill set I will continually improve on as I gain more research experience.

Overall, I think this was a good research experience and I am thankful I got the chance to work with Dr. Franzmann. She was very supportive and served as a good mentor for my professional development. In terms of what could have gone better, I think choosing a project that was more feasible to be completed in six weeks would have been better. The accrual rate for our study was low which made it have to continue into the academic year, but it was difficult for me because I felt I could not dedicate as much time to the project as I could over the summer. In the future, I think it could be avoided by being more practical about what projects can be completed in 6 weeks.