Intern Update: Isabella Small


Isabella Small

The Foundation has a mission to foster the next generation. Isabella Small, a multi-year intern who became a part of our research team, has been accepted into a medical physiology graduate program at Case Western Reserve University. We interviewed Isabella to learn about her experiences at the Foundation and her plans for the future.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs around Washington, DC. I have an identical twin sister, Gabriella, and we are very close. She is interested in law and I am interested in medicine. We both played soccer throughout high school, and we both attended the University of Virginia (UVA). This fall, when Gabriella attends law school at the University of Iowa and I head to graduate school in Cleveland, it will be the first time that we will be apart.

How did you choose the UVA and what was your major?
My paternal family, especially my grandfather, has close ties to UVA. My grandfather, Albert Small, and my cousin, Albert Small, III, completed their undergraduate degrees at UVA, and my father received a Masters, a PhD, and an MBA from the University.

With so many Wahoos in the family, my sister and I were very much looking forward to the wonderful education and college experience that we would receive at UVA. The intellectually stimulating and diverse course offerings, excellent professors, and proximity to home made the University the perfect choice for our undergraduate education.

I majored in anthropology and followed a pre-medical track. In my first year, I took Anthropology of Globalization and really enjoyed Professor Bashkow’s unique way of discussing different cultures and communities from the inside out – by being a part of a community and seeing their cultural rituals in order to understand their way of life. Studying anthropology gave me a different view on how to treat patients and how to see medicine from the patients’ perspectives. During my second year, I was one of the first students to take Introduction to Ethnographic Research, which taught me how to conduct fieldwork in anthropology.

During summer and winter breaks I volunteered at Sibley Hospital in Washington, D.C. The summer after my first year I interned in the Emergency Department, and then, in later years, in the Pediatric Radiation Oncology Department. These experiences profoundly influenced my strong interest in pursuing medicine.

How did you learn about internship opportunities at the Foundation?
As I mentioned before, our family has a long-lasting relationship with Charlottesville and the University. My grandfather knew that I was interested in science and medicine, so he introduced me to Dr. Kassell. I fell in love with the mission of the Foundation. I immediately and sincerely appreciated the manner in which Dr. Kassell’s dedication to save the lives of millions of patients and uncompromised pursuit of excellence extended throughout the community at the Foundation. Everyone on the team honors the same vision and contributes a unique and important perspective to the Foundation’s mission. This passion is infectious, and that is what kept me coming back.

What projects did you do for your internship experience?
I was an intern at the Foundation during my second and fourth year at the University. Most of the internships are during the summer, but I was an intern during the actual school year. (That is why my work was not highlighted in the summer cohort intern stories.)

During my second year at the University, I worked with the development team under the leadership of Dr. White, where I analyzed the treatment costs for focused ultrasound versus treatment costs for standard procedures for a variety of medical disorders, compared manufacturers and individuals at different institutions that develop the technology for the focused ultrasound procedure, and completed various projects that contributed to the State of the Field Report in order to increase awareness of focused ultrasound . In my fourth year, I worked with Dr. Prada on researching the current literature on focused ultrasound to treat brain disease, reviewed and edited manuscripts before they were published, and contributed to a paper comparing the procedures for ablative brain surgery and the importance of focused ultrasound to treat this disease . I also had the incredible opportunity to observe a focused ultrasound procedure on an essential tremor patient. In addition, I helped analyze data for Dr. Prada’s sonodynamic therapy study.

The Foundation has truly given me a wide variety of interesting projects to help with and broaden my scope of understanding of the various different important elements that contribute to making focused ultrasound a standard of care. In June 2019, I began working full time at the Foundation as a Research Assistant.

What was your role as a research assistant?
In this role, I worked under the direction of Dr. Powlovich, where I contributed to researching the current literature on using focused ultrasound to treat lung cancer and chronic pain as well as assisting with the maintenance of documents on various medical disorders and with different topics for the website. I also helped Dr. Powlovich and Dr. LeBlang in writing a focus feature describing the potential of focused ultrasound to treat psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. In addition, I organized Dr. Kassell’s presentation on focused ultrasound and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to the capstone seminar at the Frank Batten School of Public Policy to broaden awareness of this therapeutic technology and to share internships and opportunities to get involved in the mission of the Foundation. Furthermore, I assisted Dr. Broad, Dr. Andreae, and Mr. Franco in the development of an economic impact paper that demonstrates the insurance benefits of focused ultrasound versus other procedures. Moreover, I created a deliverable that showcases the varied levels of public access to the research of focused ultrasound in scientific journals and developed a flowchart to understand the reviewing and contracting process for each research project.

Describe the graduate program that you are starting.
This August, I will be starting the Master of Science in Medical Physiology program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for a career in healthcare professions and provide a strong foundation in medical physiology. After completion of the program, I plan to attend medical school.

What do you see as your future path in medicine?
I am primarily interested in pursuing a career in pediatric oncology. When I volunteered in this department at Sibley Hospital, I was intrigued by the manner in which the doctors and nurses communicated about cancer and its treatment protocols to the patients – especially to parents and children. I noticed the difficulty children have in realizing the severity, length or need for aggressive treatment protocols for their various diseases. In addition, I took note of how the parents suffer tremendous hardship in witnessing their child face such tough diagnoses and treatment protocol. My work at the Foundation and degree in anthropology have given me a better understanding of the patient’s perspective as well as their parent’s, and I would like to better incorporate this perspective into treatment communications. I aim to join the fight to cure cancer so that no child ever has to suffer from this tragic disease and no parent ever has to endure the difficulty of watching their child suffer. As I help accomplish this goal, I hope to find ways to make the treatment experience more tolerable for these children and their families. I have had much experience working with children at summer camps and I cannot imagine the difficulties they endure in battling such an unpredictable and life-threatening disease in addition to their parents having to watch their children suffer. In this career, I also aspire to help in making focused ultrasound a standard of care to improve the quality of life of patients and lengthen their life-expectancy.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked at the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. I truly believe that the values and culture of the Foundation as well as the commitment to making focused ultrasound available to all patients as soon as possible will be values that I will strive to honor long after I leave the Foundation.

Related Stories
Eight Summer Interns Assist in a Variety of Projects August 2019
Donor Profile: Albert Small, Sr. July 2019