By Mindy Kim, Intern
I first came across the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) Intern position by chance, but I knew as soon as I started reading more about TREC that its mission was one I wanted to contribute to. Although I knew little about kidney transplants and the specific inequalities that exist in the kidney transplant waiting system, health inequities and access to healthcare were two interests I had been growing through other organizations over my last few years at UCLA. Having been an Intern for the last 2 months, I can confidently say my experience at TREC has only further spurred my interest in these causes and exposed me to the unique challenges patients with kidney disease or who have received a kidney transplant face, especially those who are minorities.
On paper, my time as an Intern might seem socially distant and lacking a sense of community: I first found the posting for the position online, I have yet to step foot inside TREC, and I have only seen everyone at TREC through boxes on my screen. However, my actual experience has been the complete opposite. In coding videos submitted by kidney transplant recipients and donors, I became aware of the larger kidney transplant community and the support and advocacy such experiences exemplified. For example, the Explore Living Donation project is a digital video library of stories from living kidney donors and recipients and allies. Storytellers share their unique experiences with the living donation process, raising awareness on living kidney donation and serving as a culturally relevant, engaging educational tool. In assisting with editing patient-facing text on lymphoma, I became connected to patients who relied on simple and digestible text to understand their diagnosis. And in spending the bulk of my time assisting with literature searches on kidney transplant waiting list access, transplant education and health literacy, and living donation kidney transplants, in preparation for several paper submissions, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the rewards of the efforts of a whole team coming together. The sense of community at TREC and willingness by everyone to teach and guide me as I attempt new tasks has undoubtedly contributed to reducing the social distance the pandemic has created.
As I look towards my future at TREC, I am excited to continue to grow my knowledge of kidney transplant and inequities that exist in our current system and employ this knowledge to improve outcomes for those with kidney disease, especially those who are minorities, low-income, and uninsured. I have also had the privilege of hearing stories from kidney transplant recipients and donors firsthand and hope to continue to learn from the unique experiences and challenges of these patients and apply this to my future work at TREC. I would be excited to get more involved in the development of papers and contributing to writing papers using what I have learned from completing literature searches, and participating more in script writing and developing patient-facing text content. As I reflect on my months at TREC, I am grateful for the learning opportunities thus far, and am excited at the prospect of continuing to contribute to TREC’s mission as an Intern.