10/07/10 8:46 am Age: 5 yrs

Student Helps with Reseach at OHSU


By: Becky St. Clair

Background in writing and science lands her a summer job

Lauren Peterson spent her summer in a lab, studying various types of sarcoma cancers and doing research on different religious views on autopsy.

Walla Walla University students don’t just sit around being lazy all summer.  They work, they volunteer, they take classes, and often, they make a difference.  Lauren Peterson, junior humanities major, is one such student.

During the summer, Peterson worked as an intern in pediatric oncology research at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.  After submitting her resume, Peterson’s principle investigator contacted her and said they had chosen her for the internship due to her background in both writing and science.

Peterson was part of a lab that studies Rhabdomyosarcoma and other sarcoma cancers such as Osteosarcoma.

“As well as helping out in the laboratory to start an experiment using quail eggs to track tumor metastases, my project was a little bit unordinary,” she says.  “I wrote a paper on the different religious views of autopsies and post-mortem biopsies, especially those performed on children who have passed away from cancer.”

In addition to searching through different religious literature and previous scientific articles, Peterson was afforded the opportunity to interview several religious leaders in Portland.  These included a Jewish rabbi, a Shiite Muslim imam, a Buddhist priest, a Hindu swami and a Catholic priest.

“Although there are definitely some differences in opinion towards autopsy, almost every religion had something in common to say about how the body is treated post-mortem,” Peterson explains.

Peterson plans to be a pediatrician, and believes that seeing and being a part of the research that leads to practices in medicine is very important.

“Seeing the connection between research and medicinal practices will hopefully give me a more realistic view of medicine,” she says.  

Another large part of her experience was gaining insight into communication as a doctor, including that with patients and with the families of patients.

“Talking to a parent who had lost a child from cancer was an experience that at least introduces me to how difficult those conversations can be,” she says.  “Researching religious views of autopsy led me to find out how some religions view other procedures in medicine, too, and knowing some of these can help me in the future when communicating with patients of different religious affiliations.”

To view a short video made by a local news station featuring the lab Peterson worked in this summer, click the link below.

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