Dear Wellesley: Lumi Kinjo ’19 Reflects on Her Summer in Boston
In the last installment of our 2017 Summer Postcard Series, Lumi Kinjo ’19 writes about her experience in Boston, where she participated in a biomedical research and health internship through Wellesley’s Career Education. Her internship was supported by the Joan Kahn Fund.
Can you guess what the most common type of cancer is in the United States? If you said skin cancer, you are correct!
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Department of Dermatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where I worked on a research project that explores the effectiveness of its skin cancer check clinic. Every day, many patients come to the clinic to seek consultation and treatment for concerns regarding their skin. While anyone can develop skin cancers, certain factors, such as sun exposure, fair skin-tone, personal and/or family history of skin cancers, and immunosuppression make some people more vulnerable. Dedicated skin cancer check clinics, therefore, are especially important so that high-risk patients can access appropriate care in a timely fashion.
My task for most of the past two months was to construct a database of patients who came to the skin cancer check clinic. This process involved reviewing hundreds of medical records to collect information about patient demographics, clinic visits, and lesion information. The most fascinating aspect of reviewing the medical records was learning about other peoples’ lives, often at a very personal level. That is because these records contain not only strictly “medical” information, but also social and family history, which can include the patient’s occupation, sexual relationships, and places he/she has visited. Reviewing the medical records was almost like reading stories of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Even though I never met most of these patients in person, I found it very intriguing. A Wellesley friend who was also participating in the biomedical research and health internship program said that medicine is about studying how life works, but the practice of medicine is also learning about life through other people. I have appreciated the opportunity to experience both this summer.
In addition to clinical research, I was also exposed to clinical dermatology through shadowing experience. On a typical day, there were surgeries in the morning and the skin cancer check clinic in the afternoon. I learned many things from both. First, I absolutely loved observing the surgeries. The elasticity of the skin, the calm and deliberate incision and suturing, and how beautifully the lesion is removed and closed up kept me wide awake and excited at 8 a.m. Second, I was amazed by the diversity of the languages spoken by the patients and the resources at the hospital that accommodate those with language barriers. For example, I met with patients who spoke Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, and Armenian. To assist the communication between a physician and a non-English speaking patient, an interpreter will be present either in person or over the phone. The language and cultural diversity, and the potential challenges that arise from it, are unique features of health-care delivery in the United States.
Now that my internship has ended and I have gone home to Japan, I especially miss running along the Charles River. Its calm open water, nonchalant yachts, and the slight scent of the Atlantic Ocean are some of the reasons why I love the city. Place alone wouldn’t have made my summer special, though. While I was the only Wellesley student interning at Tufts, new and old Wellesley friends in the Greater Boston area made my time there infinitely more precious. It was a lot of fun to run, cook, watch movies, and go to museums together.
I’ll see you in September, Wellesley! Well, actually, you have been with me all this summer and will continue to be a big part of me.
Lumi Kinjo ’19 is a chemistry major.