Student Success Story: Jaden Del Gobbo

Jaden Del Gobbo is a rising senior majoring in Allied Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health Promotion and minors in Healthcare Management and Insurance Studies and Latin American Studies. He has shared his experience as both a Research Assistant and Research Coordinator for the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine and You COVID-19 longitudinal clinical research study at Yale University.

Heidi Pineda: What were your position responsibilities? Were there any projects or aspects of the job that you had a special interest in?

Jaden Del Gobbo: My position responsibilities frequently adapt and change as a natural progression of gained skills and experiences within the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine and You COVID-19 longitudinal clinical research study. This research study is under a principal investigator (P.I.) Shaili Gupta; MBBS, Assistant Professor of Medicine (General Medicine); Director of Didactic Education for Medicine House-staff at VA, General Internal Medicine; Director of Clinical Operations of COVID-19, VACHS; Co-Chair, Program Evaluation Committee, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Infectious Disease.

My main duties consist of subject communication and education, maintenance and inventory of research supplies and regulatory paperwork, maintenance of study data, lab processing, study-participant scheduling, and use of research databases for managing a bio-repository.

Specifically, I enjoyed learning about clinical variables, disease markers, and entities that play a correlational effect with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and Moderna/Pfizer vaccine immunity response rate. Understanding, for example, how certain hematological sarcoma weaken the ability to maintain immunity response rates in specific demographics within a 6-month span, to how creatinine values (within the kidneys) also, play a unique role in maintaining an average immunity response rate is fascinating to me. Being able to collect and extract these clinical variables from study participants within CPRS (computerized patient record system) was something I greatly enjoyed.

HP: When and how did you secure this opportunity? Do you have any tips for students trying to secure a similar opportunity?

JDG: The day after my 20th birthday, I began volunteering as a Veteran Affairs ‘Ambassador’ at the Newington campus Veterans Health Administration. During this time, ranging from January 19th to April 18th 2021, I volunteered to aid within the Newington VHA COVID-19 Vaccination campaign by assisting disabled Veterans at the clinic, sanitation and cleansing of certain equipment, materials, and waiting areas to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. During this time, as one of the recognized VA Ambassadors by Public Relations Officer Pamela Redmond and VHA Director Alan Latoya, Dr. Shaili Gupta was conducting the initial informed consent process for the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine and You study, labeled for short as the Vaccine Study.

During this time, Dr. Gupta required an ambassador to transport selected study participants to the Newington Phlebotomy to await blood draw as study specimens. Through the use of networking, shared interest and passion, alongside a natural ‘click’ and ‘zest’ between us, Dr. Gupta recruited me as a research assistant within the study to aid in the aforementioned duties. This opportunity was by pure serendipity, which only presented itself due to intense work and determination within my previous role as VA Ambassador.

HP: Did you have any previous experiences that prepared you for this one?

JDG: Besides my current undergraduate education attained at that point, I had little experience(s) besides a fierce zest and passion for aiding Veterans and engaging in COVID-19 based clinical research. However, my previous experience of being rejected from a UConn-based internship at John Dempsey Hospital attending to elderly patients inspired me to open another door of opportunity for myself. Being rejected from this internship experience led my department (Allied Health Sciences) caused me to doubt myself in terms of my ability to network, sell myself, gain competitive experience, and within my skills and abilities. Instead of allowing myself to fall into a cycle of doubt and fear, I decided I would take the ‘closed door’ opportunity, and reinforce my determination to find an internship I possessed a passion for.

Thus, my advice to my fellow Huskies and other undergraduate students is the following: You cannot lose what you do not have, and there is always a positive to be found within a self-determined failure. Rejection is never an easy concept to cope with, especially for students who take a certain pride in learning, gaining experiences, and showcasing their unique tenacity and spark in the direction of their chosen interest. However, being able to take that rejection experience and harness it as motivation, is a quintessential example of adaptability and resilience. If you apply for a position or experience with the mindset that it is already within your grasp, this can certainly lead to negative results if you are not selected. There is never defeat in rejection because even within our worst experiences, there is always a positive, a ‘light’ to be found if you take the time to reflect and digest it.

HP: How did this experience impact your decision to pursue a career in this field?

JDG: Being exposed to the medical world, versus reading about experiences or speaking to individuals who have lived such experiences truly illustrated to me this is the path I want to explore. Learning within my classes is essential for having a base foundation that teaches and prepares students for how to operate in their desired occupation, but an internship takes this to a whole new level. Visually seeing how others in your desired profession operate on a daily basis, the challenges, joys, and obstacles they must overcome to be successful grants clarity and aim in which skills and areas of knowledge to focus on. Despite all the negatives entailed in being a medical doctor who also wears hats in healthcare administration and diversity and inclusion, seeing the impact these professionals have within their communities and everyday people who rely on their care and expertise inspired me to continue my journey and path. I am happy to continue my educational ambitions of pursuing a dual master of MD/MBA at the University of Connecticut to one day become a medical doctor/hospital administrator working within the diversity and inclusion department, hopefully at the Veterans Health Administration.

HP: Since your experience was both in-person and virtual, what advice do you have for individuals navigating a virtual experience?

JDG: Virtual experiences, whether in an occupational setting or internship, have numerous opportunities that if used correctly, can be extremely advantageous. However, in order to successfully harness, learn, grow, and build savvy use of skills and abilities within a virtual setting requires a unique sense of self-determination, focus, time management-based organization, mental clarity, and adaptability. These attributes contribute to individualized learning by being able to obtain a successful balance between being physically away from the experience whilst still maintaining adept growth as if it was a physical internship. Depending on the format, virtual experiences may lean more on independence, which can be a learning curve for certain students. Keeping focus and staying organized allows you more flexibility to learn versus stressing about keeping pace with work and assigned duties. The most important aspect of any internship experience is learning, and these attributes will aid you in being able to maximize learning within any virtual position.

By Heidi Pineda
Heidi Pineda Affinity Community Outreach and Programming Intern