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Lafayette seniors Christina Croft (Highland Park, N.J.) and Shuana Pedowitz (East Brunswick, N.J.) conducted research on colorectural cancer this summer at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., co-writing a paper with other researchers that will be submitted to medical journals.

The students spent eight weeks at the center after discovering the alumni-sponsored internship opportunity with Arthur Topilow ’63 through the Job Vault maintained by Lafayette’s Career Services. Through the cooperation of Axelrod research division, along with pathology/histology and other departments at Jersey Shore Medical Center, the interns gained a greater understanding of colorectal cancer and the need for research, they said. They learned how to observe and identify tumor tissue using light microscopy and identified Her-2/neu, a ‘’molecular marker” for different tumors, through immunohistochemical staining.

Both agreed that the internship helped them understand the group dynamics essential for working in a hospital, and allowed them to use organizational skills, goal setting, and accurate planning for the completion of their research project, ‘’The Lack of Her-2/neu Amplification in Colorectal Malignancies.”

The project included searching through the subjects’ medical records “to find their demographics” and any medical histories relevant to the study.

‘’Although there was not a lot of information that was needed from the records, it was interesting to learn how records are kept within the patients’ files as well as within the intricate system of the hospital,” says Croft, a neuroscience major.

Aside from research, the interns attended Institutional Review Board and Transfusion Committee meetings, which demonstrated the checks and balances necessary for proper functioning and cooperation throughout the hospital, as well as tumor board and breast cancer conferences, which exhibited the importance of continuing education and communication among medical staff in order to provide the best patient care and treatments, they said. Other intriguing opportunities included observing autopsies and rounding in hematology/oncology, cardiac intensive care, and radiation therapy.

Croft and Pedowitz agreed that they were ‘’extremely privileged” to have been selected for ‘’such an amazing experience” that allowed them to enhance their education and interests in the medical field.

‘’The most interesting part of the experience for me was the working environment of the hospital,” says Pedowitz, a biology major. ‘’We were given so many opportunities, from going on rounds to sitting in on various board meetings. It was amazing to see all the different people working together in the hospital with goals in mind to improve patient care.”

‘’I learned a lot about colorectal cancer as well as running research experiments in a hospital setting,” she adds. ‘’However, my highlight was going on rounds with a cardiac intensive care nurse that runs a research experiment. Her patience and guidance have given me direction for my future.”

‘’This internship was an amazing opportunity,” says Croft. ‘’ I was able to experience so many more aspects of working in a hospital than just our specific research. Being a neuroscience major, I am not usually observing things under the microscope, nor would I say that it is something in which I am interested. However, learning how to identify cancerous tissue under the microscope was very interesting and exciting. By the end of the internship, I was able to identify the different areas of the cancerous tissue and determine the severity of the cancer.”

For Croft, the most interesting part of the internship may have been viewing an autopsy. ‘’It was a little disconcerting to see a deceased person, but it was interesting to learn how death is diagnosed in unknown cases,” she says.

‘’The research that I was able to do allowed me to learn and experience new things; however, what really added the little something extra to this internship was the other opportunities in which I was able to participate,” notes Croft. ‘’Since I am thinking about medical school, it was wonderful to be able to experience a hospital setting and to work closely and observe doctors in action. There is a lot more in a doctor’s day-to-day activities then seeing patients.”

The internship greatly helped Pedowitz develop her career plans.

‘’Before the experience, I was a biology major with a minor in health care, and quite honestly, I did not have any idea for the future,” she explains. ‘’I plan on applying to nursing school this fall to receive a bachelor’s of science in nursing. After a few years of clinical work, I want to go back to school to obtain a master’s to become a nurse practitioner or nurse educator.”

After graduation, Croft plans to work in a job related to neuroscience or health care while applying to medical schools to enroll in fall 2004.

‘’I had already decided on these career plans before this internship; however, it did strengthen my passion in the medical field,” she says. ‘’I loved working in the hospital and interacting with the many different departments.”

The students thanked Topilow ‘’for making this opportunity possible; Judi Keifer for her guidance, supervision, and support; Dr. Theodore Matulewicz and Anna Navarrete for their patience and hours of dedication to our laboratory analysis; and Debbie Feeney for her constant helping hand.”

Lafayette provides a good environment for learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom, says Croft.

‘’Classes are small at Lafayette, allowing students to get to know their professors more closely,” she says. ‘’The professors also are very encouraging about coming to talk to them with any problems. There are other experiences such as independent studies that allow you to create a class geared toward something in which you are interested. Last semester, I was able to do an independent study with Professor (Ann) McGillicuddy-DeLisi where I was able to investigate how hormones affect males’ and females’ spatial ability.

‘’These experiences go beyond the Lafayette campus, extending to internship and education possibilities across the nation. Career Services does a good job of keeping us updated and posting job/internship opportunities. Overall, the faculty and administration of Lafayette care about each individual person and they want them to succeed here and after they graduate.”

‘’Lafayette’s strengths for me are in the small classroom setting,” says Pedowitz. ‘’I feel that in my major alone, I have learned so much from my professors and my classes because of the active style of teaching and friendly environment.”

Since her first year at Lafayette, Pedowitz has been an America Reads tutor for elementary school children and a member of the women’s rugby club, which she helps lead as co-captain. She also is vice president of recruitment for Alpha Phi sorority and a biology teaching assistant.

Croft conducted an externship with University Orthopaedic Associates in New Brunswick, N.J. over the January interim session between semesters last year. She observed office visits and arthroscopic surgery, and reviewed client cases and discussed diagnoses. She is a member of Psychology Club and Lafayette Society for Neuroscience.

Former vice president of Lafayette’s volunteer living floor, Croft is a peer tutor and three-time alumni phonathon volunteer, and has served as a tutor and child care aide through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center. She has competed in women’s rugby club for several years, now serving as treasurer, and is active in intramural sports. In addition, Croft is vice president of program development for Alpha Phi sorority, having served previously as Panhellenic delegate.

Categorized in: Academic News