Photo of Arabella Thompson working at a computer during her research internship.

W&J Senior Completes Research Internship at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Created: March 21, 2022  |  Last Updated: April 22, 2022  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (March 21, 2022) – Arabella Thompson ‘22 is taking a comprehensive approach to medicine, one communication at a time.

Thompson spent the summer of 2021 as an intern in the laboratory of Judy Chang, M.D., in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. She researched patient-provider communication with an overall objective to identify and promote communication skills that facilitate positive behavioral change in the health of pregnant mothers and their babies.

She analyzed 468 recorded first obstetric conversations between pregnant patients and their obstetric care providers, coding for racial and social stressors in the various communication styles.

She is extremely grateful for the guidance she received from Kelly Weixel, Ph.D., associate professor of biology.

“My advisor, Dr. Weixel, has always provided me with support and knowledge in both the classroom and real world-settings,” Thompson said. “A lesson she taught me, which I value greatly, was that mistakes should be seen as an opportunity to learn, rather than to have never made one and not know how to fix it when the time comes.”

Thompson also credits W&J’s liberal arts education for preparing her for the internship.

“Dr. Chang’s values parallel those that are bestowed in us as students at a liberal arts college, addressing all areas of medicine: science, communication, sociocultural, and psychological,” she said. “Likewise, at W&J, we have been prepared to approach our studies with an open mindset, including all the valuable lessons we have learned in classes outside that of our major.”

Thompson completed her internship using the Robert Maxwell ’43 Student Internship Endowment, which provides support for students in completing off-campus internship experiences.

She is also continuing her research with Dr. Chang to complete an honors project at W&J, which she believes is preparing her both personally and professionally.

“This internship gave me the opportunity to work with a team of intelligent individuals, most of whom were already medical students, and allowed me to be seen as an equal while collaborating during weekly team meetings,” Thompson said. “These meetings gave us the opportunity to develop new codes for the research codebook to apply to the data set, as well as come up with our own individual research questions.”

After her upcoming graduation, she plans to become a physician.

“My end goal is to become a physician so that I can apply my knowledge to help better the lives and health of individuals,” she said. “I also look forward to creating a positive relationship with my patients so that I will continue to learn from them, as much as they learn from me.”


About Washington & Jefferson College 
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.