A man with an ulcer on his leg that has failed to heal for more than 30 years enrolls in a clinical trial at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. As part of the trial, he’s been asked to apply a cream to his ulcer. The wound heals within four weeks.
This patient was the first successful participant in an ongoing clinical trial that Andrew Alvarez, a first-year student, assisted in the summer before starting medical school.
“I was working in the clinic from day one,” Alvarez said. “This clinical research had me interact with patients even before starting medical school. I had never seen a leg ulcer, and through my mentors, I learned a lot about wound care. The patients have wounds that won’t heal and that has led to a debilitating lifestyle. Seeing the change in patients whose wounds have healed is amazing.”
As part of his experience, Alvarez recruited patients for studies, shadowed doctors and investigators, and helped write papers. He worked with Principal Investigator Robert D. Galiano, MD, assistant professor in plastic surgery, and Jing Liu, MD, senior clinical research associate.
“As a biology major I had previous clinical research experience, but this summer was incredible being able to participate and get such extensive insight into the drug development process,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez’s family piqued his interest in medicine. His mother encouraged regular checkups, which he witnessed the value of when his sister required preventive care for skin cancer.
“When my sister saw the doctor, I witnessed her procedures and treatments, which really got me excited about medicine,” he said.
Liu enjoyed working with Alvarez on the clinical trial. She feels passionately about involving students in research early on in their education.
“It’s wonderful to have students like Andrew help us out with our clinical research studies,” she said. “I learn from him as much as he learns from me. It’s good to have the medical students exposed to clinical trials. It is important for them to understand how a drug development happens and the process a drug goes through before it is in the market.”
For more information about research opportunities available to MD students at Feinberg, please click here.