Program: MD-PhD (PhD in Genetics)
Year in program: Second-year
The death of a loved one can be a life-altering experience. When second-year MD/PhD student Bijou Basu’s grandfather passed away earlier this year, it left her pondering approaches to end-of-life care and, ultimately, led her to launch a nonprofit called No Longer Voiceless.
Officially started in the spring, No Longer Voiceless is an organization based on the concept of dignity therapy. Basu and a volunteer leadership team around the country interview patients nearing the end of their lives, asking nine questions that are designed to facilitate conversations that help “enhance meaning, direction and dignity of life for patients and families” and “control [patients’] dignity.”
For those patients whose conditions may not make an interview feasible, the organization offers a “Memory Book,” a physical record that allows families to join in creating a piece including photos and captions.
With the latter option, Basu cites the example of one man who has been in the hospital for months and was unable to write to his wife. Together with him, the organization helped create a book capturing the couple’s love story to send to his wife.
Basu knows that in many medical fields, doctors deal with death and, no matter the stage of their careers, it can be difficult. Through her experiences with No Longer Voiceless, she hopes to be better prepared when faced with it during her own career.
“I am hoping that through this work, not only can I help make an impact in someone’s life now but also [prepare myself to help patients] in the future,” Basu said.
In addition to her work with No Longer Voiceless, Basu is co-chair of the Doctors for America Women’s Health Workgroup, and organization that tackles issues such as abortion, transgender health care, domestic violence and maternal health. In August, Basu participated in the organization’s national conference, moderating the Medical Student Poster Session.
At CWRU, Basu conducts genetics research in the lab of Atul Chopra, an assistant professor of medicine. Basu’s projects involve looking at how asprosin (a hormone discovered in Chopra’s lab that controls appetite and stimulates glucose release into the bloodstream) plays a role in cognition, and studying trends and factors related to asprosin levels using a mathematical model.
For Basu, pursuing an MD/PhD path is the perfect fit—it allows her to continue pursuing her interest in research while also combining skills in problem-solving, human connection, biological sciences, and ultimately, the chance to make an impact.
“As cheesy as it sounds, my goal is to make a difference,” Basu said. “I am currently interested in neurology, clinically, but I am trying to keep an open mind. At the end of the day I want to be doing something meaningful and impactful.”
More specifically, she’d like to start her own genetics lab and research drug discovery and delivery for neurological conditions, see patients, and perhaps even launch a startup.