By, Sarah Brecher, Intern
My name is Sarah Brecher and over the last two years, I have served as an intern at the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC). I initially entered the lab as a sophomore interested in the basic principles of preventing disease and promoting health through public health research. Two years later as I enter my senior year at UCLA, the work at the lab has increased my commitment to public health as the field I intend to pursue.
In the first year of my internship, we were at the beginning stages of video collection for our Explore Living Donation Storytelling Project. I spent hours on the phone recruiting participants for the project, encouraging them to share their stories of living kidney donation. Through this process, I had the privilege to engage in conversation with living donors on their motivations to donate and with recipients on how life has dramatically changed with a new kidney, conversations I had never considered prior to my work at TREC. One of my favorite aspects of this project was when I would check the website for new videos – not only because I wanted to hit our numbers, but because I was excited to see the face of the individual I had spent all that time talking on the phone with. When we officially launched the project’s website, it was an incredible feeling to see so many familiar faces and hear the stories exchanged by phone come to life.
As researchers, it is easy to focus on the end goal of publications, research posters, or grants. However, none of this is possible without the individual conversations I have had over the past two years with donors, recipients, family members, and beyond. Through my time talking directly to those impacted by living kidney donation, I realized how vital it is to connect on an individual basis in order to achieve a broader goal. As someone highly involved in Special Olympics at UCLA, we highlight the statement “nothing about us without us” in all our programming. As I reflect on this quote combined with my time at TREC, I leave the lab with a commitment to work alongside communities in order to contribute a more healthy and equitable society where all individuals are able to thrive.