Each year a group of librarians from institutions, including NNLM Region 7, around New England organize the New England Science Boot Camp for Librarians. This event aims to introduce librarians to a cutting edge or particularly prominent area of scientific research. This year the topic chosen was Precision Medicine, and we had some amazing researchers from Holy Cross, WPI and the UMass Chan Medical school present on their research. The sessions were recorded and will be posted on the NE Science Bootcamp website once they are done being processed and edited. Recordings from previous years are available.
Precision medicine is an approach to disease treatment which considers the differences between individuals which stem from patients’ genes, environment, lifestyle and many other potential factors. If you’re interested in more information, both the NIH and MedlinePlus have great resources on the topic.
Our first talk was by Dr. Mary Doyle Roche of the College of the Holy Cross. She is a bioethicist and introduced the audience to various approaches the field of bioethics takes, as well as how some of the approaches she uses can frame personalized medicine. One of the interesting points she made was that illness itself is experienced as personal and individual to the patient, and that precision medicine provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to respond to those individual experiences and needs. Below is a quote used in the presentation:
“The personal experience of illness is generally the principal concern of individual patients; therefore, the principal focus of the health care delivery system must be individual patients and their families or support groups.”
Dr. Catherine Faye Whittington of Worcester Polytechnic Institute presented on her work creating new, dynamic models for pancreatic cancer using tissue engineering. Pancreatic Cancer is a form of cancer with particularly poor prognosis after diagnosis, and Dr. Whittington’s research aims to improve the ability to accurately model this cancer in its environment and to create tools to better understand different stages of this cancer’s progress. Cancer treatment is one of the areas where precision approaches have been applied broadly, allowing more targeted therapies to be used. Dr. Whittington’s talk touched on numerous aspects where her research might down the line be used to enable precision oncological approaches, particularly by using patient samples in these models, which could allow healthcare providers to rapidly evaluate which courses of treatment might be most effective against a particular patient’s illness.
Our final research presentation was conducted by Dr. Athma Pai who works at the UMass Chan Medical School’s RNA Therapeutics Institute. Her research combines genomics and computational bioinformatics, and is focused on the details of mRNA transcription. Much of precision medicine depends on our understanding of genomics and how an individual’s genes translate to medically relevant differences. Research groups like the Pai Lab, which aim to increase our fundamental understanding of this complex translation and transcription process, help lay the groundwork for future researchers to apply this understanding to precision medicine techniques.
In addition to the research-focused talks, we also had a capstone session introducing Systematic Reviews. This was conducted by Marissa G. Iverson, a Research Support Librarian at the UConn Health Sciences Library. In addition to her excellent introduction to the topic, she also shared a number of useful resources, such as this UConn Health Science Library guide to Systematic Reviews, Meta-Analyses & Evidence Synthesis
Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in learning more about the talks or the Science Bootcamp, check out our website. We’ll be back next year with an exciting (TBD) topic!