Summer in St. Louis

Written by Chee Teik Lee, MD student at University College Dublin and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

Coming to the states for the summer and being surrounded by the humidity in St Louis hasn’t been easy. It definitely took some effort and adjustment to be able to function and perform well, but my lovely colleagues make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Words can’t describe how exciting it is for me to immerse in a new culture in a foreign country on my own. Although I am quite familiar with European and Asian cultures, American culture is a totally different story. Nonetheless, it is shocking to see how engaging the American students are in participating in research. Their eagerness and hunger for research experience make quite an impression. Funny thing is, it makes me feel more like home here, as I am working with people who share the same interest and passion as me.

Summer Research Program students at the St. Louis Zoo.

The work in Dr. Toriola’s lab has been such an eye-opening and amazing experience for me. My main task in the lab is to work on two manuscripts about medication use and mammographic density. Given that I am fairly inexperienced in this field, I am truly thankful to be entrusted by Dr. Toriola to draft my own papers. His belief in me always spurs me to work harder so that I would not let him down. My colleagues are very helpful and we form such a great dynamic in the lab.

As part of the colorectal cancer research study (ColoCare), we support each other’s growth and constantly face new challenges on a weekly basis. This opportunity has given me an insight into clinical research, which could be fun and challenging simultaneously. Seizing every chance I get in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track, I learn how to establish the trust between us (research coordinators) and the patients and how to work and communicate professionally with the hospital staff.

The series of summer program seminars have been really interesting. Before this, I did not place public safety and housing in the spectrum of public health. For me personally, or, from what I have been taught in medical school, the focus of public health has been on epidemiology, biostatistics, infectious diseases, etc. I was limited to the medical viewpoint. Therefore, when issues like gun violence, public housing and social structure were brought up consistently by the speakers, I started to rethink and rebuild my concept of public health and what it actually means in a different setting, society, culture and country. Public health is huge, as it contains every possible thing that could affect the community’s health and well-being. This exposure has really given me a new definition and perspective to public health.

This summer I am fortunate enough to participate in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track, and I am really glad that I took this chance to leave my comfort zone and go abroad for the summer. I am confident in saying that I have definitely grown personally and professionally.