Chasing my Passions (And Discovering New Ones!)

Olivia Szewczyk, COL ’24, New Orleans, LA

Being someone that has grown up all my life going to dermatologists offices, I knew that one day, I wanted to be involved in dermatological medicine. Now, I am a rising senior in college, trying to juggle the MCAT, performing meaningful research, getting adequate clinical experience, and actually enjoying my last summer before the “real world” begins. I found myself yearning to gain this clinical experience while also getting research experience, but I wanted to do so in a way that felt holistically beneficial to both others as well as myself and what I wanted my future to look like.

Over the summer, I have participated in a clinical research fellowship experience at Penn Medicine’s Dermatological research wing. Under the guidance of Josh, my fellowship point of contact, I was able to retain incomparable amounts of information regarding what topics are leading the way in dermatological research as well as receiving excellent clinical experience before my journey to medical school.

I learned about what goes into clinical research at every single step. From obtaining permission from the IRB in order to ensure what we are doing is safe, ethical, and important, to receiving and packaging samples to ensure safe testing, and to import all acquired information into a database to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding our found data. It was extremely interesting to witness all of the moving parts that go into creating and testing a meaningful research hypothesis.

In clinic, I learned a multitude of valuable skills. I learned how to take vital signs on different patients, how to record that data, how to draw blood from multiple different areas of the body, and much more! I also learned a lot about extremely rare conditions, such as pemphigus, and was actually able to see and document it in person!

Outside of research, I also explored new passions. I discovered a love for hiking and exploring areas such as the Wissahickon valley forests. I also discovered a passion for macro-friendly cooking/baking and learned how to make so many healthy variations of my favorite foods! But, with endless options in Philadelphia, it was also difficult to not find a passion for indulging in trying new foods and treats during long summer days. Overall, I have had a very fulfilling summer experience and cannot wait to apply everything that I have learned over the past few months to the rest of my life.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services