Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 09:45

Nation’s Top Children’s Hospital Invites Assumption Student to Intern, Conduct Pediatric Research

By Frank Bruno '17

BCH internAlthough classes aren’t in session, Robert Benjamin ’17 is spending his summer learning outside of the classroom, obtaining real-world experience working for the neurology department at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), one of the world’s leading pediatric hospitals. As an intern, Benjamin, a biology major from Milford, MA, conducts research focused on pediatric epilepsy. Benjamin is responsible for interacting with and enrolling patients in clinical trials, recording data entries from questionnaires and reviewing medical charts. He also shadows medical residents to obtain a better understanding of the various individual roles and responsibilities – as well as future career opportunities – at the country’s top pediatric clinic in Boston’s thriving medical community.

While his experience this summer has allowed him to gain invaluable experience administering clinical research, Benjamin shares that this opportunity has afforded him unique insight into the body’s complex neurological system, particularly in adolescents. This learning experience has enabled him to delve into epilepsy, as well as other neurologic conditions and potential treatment. However, Benjamin notes that what he’s learned most is “how powerful hope and a positive outlook are in the care of a patient. “The more positive the patient is and the more hope they have, the more likely they are to have a good outcome,” he added.

Benjamin credits the education he has received at Assumption College for preparing him to succeed in an intense internship such as the one at BCH. “Assumption has given me the basic science knowledge that I’ve needed to comprehend the medical-related information that is presented to me on a daily basis. It has also taught me how to act independently and solve problems on my own. I’m doing quite a bit of independent work, so it is crucial that I am able to problem solve quickly and learn things on the spot,” he said.

Benjamin’s professors at Assumption have commended him for his willingness to learn in hopes of making the most out of his Assumption experience.

Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Biology and Chemistry Kimberly Schandel, Ph.D., identified Benjamin as a student who was motivated to succeed in healthcare field when she had him as a student in a genetics class his freshman year. “I encouraged him to seek an internship with a noted orthopedic surgeon, even though Robert was a first-year student,” she said.  “I normally won’t recommend an internship until students are in their sophomore or junior years, but Robert displayed the maturity, professionalism and ambition needed to be a successful intern.”

Benjamin is thankful for the experience he has gained this summer while working at BCH, but says that what’s most rewarding for him has been talking to the patients and their families and becoming familiar with their stories. “I assumed I would hear sad stories about the children, because they are at the hospital, but I have found quite the opposite,” he said.  “I see children with smiling faces every day that do not have any worries or fear. They fill me with pure joy when I talk to them.”                                 

According to Marina Gaínza Lein, a Research Fellow in the Department of Neurology in the Division of Epilepsy at the Children’s Hospital, and Benjamin’s mentor for the summer, “Robert has become closely involved with all of the families we enroll due to his long hours spent in our Epilepsy Clinic.” She, too, agrees that all of Benjamin’s hard work this summer has exceeded expectations.                                                

“His ability to work independently, the quality of his clinical chart reviews, and the amount of patients he has been able to enroll in our program have made it possible for us to finish our study sooner than planned, allowing us to use the findings to improve our clinical care. He is always willing to help and learn, and his help has been invaluable for this project due to his commitment,” said Gaínza Lein.

The patient success stories he has witnessed since June when he began the internship has surprised Benjamin, but allowed him to realize how phenomenal the hospital is as a whole, and why it is ranked number one in the country. “All of the positive stories I have heard trump the sadness that one may think is present at a children’s hospital,” said Benjamin.

Interning at BCH reaffirmed Benjamin of his desire to pursue a vocation in the field of health sciences. “My career interests were already pretty narrow, but this experience has solidified them and assured me that I am on the correct path to achieving them,” he said.

Assumption students interested in pursuing internship opportunities should contact the College's Career Development & Internship Center.

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews