W&J senior researches HIV treatment in Paris, France

Created: August 15, 2018
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 15, 2018)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Dana Fiola ’19 of McKees Rocks, Pa., is spending her summer researching HIV treatment methods at the University of Paris Diderot in Paris, France.

Dana, a biology major and chemistry minor, used local connections to make her way to Paris. During the summer of 2017, she was one of eight students selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants to complete a clinical research internship at Magee Women’s Research Institute in Pittsburgh. Dana was assigned to the Infectious Disease Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Ian McGowan. She took part in an HIV prevention study and assisted lab technicians with collecting and processing blood samples from patients at Magee Women’s Hospital.

“Towards the end of my eight-week internship [at Magee Women’s Hospital], I was made aware that Dr. McGowan collaborates with infectious disease physicians in other countries. One of those doctors is Dr. Jean-Michel Molina, who works in the Infectious Disease Clinic at the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, France,” Dana said. “I worked with the McGowan Lab Managers to create the opportunity for me to complete a summer research internship in Paris. After many months of emailing and completing interviews with Dr. Molina, I was chosen to work in his Infectious Disease Clinic as a research intern for the summer.”

With support from W&J’s Merck Internship for Excellence in Science Award, Dana traveled to Paris to join Dr. Molina’s lab to contribute to studies that are being conducted to test the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of new injectable HIV medications.

Dana worked with research assistants to prepare “kits” for the patient consultations, which contained properly labeled blood tubes and paperwork specific to each visit. She also accompanied Dr. Molina on many of his appointments to discuss the patients’ treatment plans and determine how effective the study has been for their illnesses. Throughout the internship, Dana assisted doctors throughout the Saint-Louis Hospital by proofreading scientific manuscripts that needed to be written in English.

“I had the privilege of building connections with the patients and was able to gain their trust, due to my internship [with Sant-Louis Hospital] being a time period of ten weeks. Becoming so close to those patients and seeing them improve with their treatments was an incredibly rewarding feeling for me,” she said. “This experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity that has provided me with the knowledge to become a well-rounded and culturally aware student doctor.”

Dana, who plans to attend school for osteopathic medicine and become a physician, shared that without W&J, an experience like this wouldn’t have been possible. Her classes and previous lab experiences prepared her for her time in France, and support from the Merck award helped make this internship a reality.

“I am honored that I was chosen to receive the Merck Internship for Excellence in Science Award. I am very grateful to W&J and to Merck for selecting me and providing me with the funding that allowed me to have this incredible opportunity. Through this internship, I was able to experience another culture, discover French history, learn about the French healthcare system, and meet some amazing people along the way. None of that would have been possible without the assistance from W&J and from Merck,” she said.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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