I remember seeing this email one day toward the end of M1 year. To be honest, I almost deleted the email because I had no idea what the subject line meant and thought it might be spam. I decided to open it anyway given the mention of transplant and my interest in the field, and I’m glad I did.
Turns out the email was a job posting. The post was for an “on-call” position to consent patients coming in for solid organ transplants for clinical trials from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m on weekdays, or all day on weekends. At the time, I did not know what being on-call meant, but later came to find out that it meant carrying a pager so you could be alerted as to when an organ offer was official and a patient was confirmed for surgery. My role entails screening patients for enrolling trials to see if they are eligible for any. If yes, the next step is to approach the patient to explain the clinical trial, see if he is interested in contributing, and then get his consent if they agree to participate. This usually also includes collecting blood/urine specimens for processing.
Taking this position turned out to be a rewarding and tremendously valuable decision. My eyes were opened to both the world of transplant surgery and clinical trials. Before taking this position, I had no idea how involved clinical trials were. The studies are so intricate and timing is everything. I have definitely gained an appreciation for the work behind the introduction of new drugs and the optimization of evidence-based patient care. I am lucky that the staff was incredibly accommodating, which has allowed me to keep this side job during medical school ($$!).
While on the job, I also learned very quickly that the hospital at night feels totally different than during the day. The hustle and bustle is gone, yet there is still so much going on, especially in the world of transplant surgery. I loved being one of the first people the organ recipients get to meet. Sometimes patients are so nervous they don’t even want to hear about research opportunities. Sometimes they are eager and have actually participated in research before. Either way, there is something special about seeing their vulnerability and excitement before a life-changing surgery.
On a lighter note, I find the emptiness of the main hospital hallway intriguing and entertaining. During the day I am dodging people going from one end to the other; at night I always try to shoot a photo of the entire hallway if there is no one other than me in it.
Alisha Lussiez is a fourth year medical student pursuing General Surgery.