A summer research program at one of the top-ranked cancer centers in the United States gave Sanju Eswaran, MS 4, the rare opportunity to merge her clinical interests with exploring a rare disease.
Eswaran spent two and a half months in the Medical Student Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Only 10 medical students across the country are invited each summer to participate in a course of hands-on scientific research and clinical observation under the guidance of one of the center’s leading faculty.
“The program was very selective, so this was a great experience for me,” Eswaran said.
Eswaran said she chose to focus her experience on orthopaedic medicine. She was paired with Valerae Lewis, M.D., chair of orthopaedic oncology and director of musculoskeletal oncology at MD Anderson. Lewis has been researching multifocal intraosseous lipomas, an extremely rare form of bone tumor.
Eswaran said her interests in oncology and orthopaedics made a good mix for the summer project. “It was looking at orthopaedics in a different light. Usually we think of sports medicine, sports injuries or falls in the elderly population. But this added the oncology aspect to it.”
Much of the research was focused on creating an awareness of the potential for diagnosis. Only about one in 1,000 bone tumors turn out to be intraosseous lipomas, and those usually occur in adults in their 40s or 50s. With Lewis, Eswaran also looked at those most rare cases when the disease affects children.
In addition to her research efforts, Eswaran shadowed Lewis in the operating room two days a week and was allowed to assist with retraction during surgeries and with suturing at the completion of the procedures. Eswaran said she also spent time working in the orthopaedic oncology clinic with Bryan Moon, M.D., who completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at UMKC.
At the end of the program, each student presented a poster and discussed his or her work at a research symposium for students, their mentors and other MD Anderson faculty. Eswaran presented an abstract on “A Rare Case: Multifocal Intraosseous Lipomas of the Lower Limb.”
“This was research mixed with the clinical experience,” Eswaran said. “I had the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of patient care. I got to see the operating room, as well as the clinic side of things, the follow-up with patients, the pre-op and post-op. And I got to do research. It was really an eye-opening experience.”
Eswaran said she wants to go into academic medicine when she completes her medical education. She thinks her time spent at MD Anderson will be a good springboard for the future.
“To be in academic medicine, you have to be current and aware of modern protocols,” she said. “Therefore, you must be adept in cutting-edge research, in preventative medicine and groundbreaking treatment options.”