Student Intern: Joanne Alfred


Ocala, FL




Biology and biochemistry


Internship: Ocala Oncology
I had the opportunity to intern in the research department of Ocala Oncology, which is a Florida Cancer Affiliate. Florida Cancer Affiliates is a network of cancer specialists in 450 cancer centers across the United States. Ocala Oncology participates in studies opened by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Moffitt Cancer Center of University of South Florida, and others.


As a clinical research assistant, I helped find patients who fit the criteria for the studies Ocala Oncology participated in. This involved learning what the study was about, what the patient’s symptoms meant, and how to identify eligible patients based on their medical history. The main study I worked on was the Oncotype DX, a test physicians give to breast cancer patients to predict their chance of developing cancer again.


Why an internship?
I would love to become a physician, and this internship gave me the opportunity to see what kind of research doctors are involved in while they maintain a private practice. I have shadowed doctors in the past, but this internship allowed me to be an active participant in clinical research. It was a step closer, which is what I really wanted.


How did you get the internship?
I got this internship through networking with my father’s colleagues. He is a critical care physician and works closely with many specialists. 


What have you learned from your internship?
Professionally, I learned what it takes to maintain a clinical practice and perform research. Patient eligibility has many levels, medically and legally, and I now understand the high standard it takes to be a doctor involved in research. Personally, I learned how important it is to strive for excellence, stay teachable, and be a reliable colleague. The doctors and nurses I interacted with had years of experience and they trusted one another to keep the bar high and rise to it.


What are your future career plans?
I hope to find another research internship, with a focus on pediatrics. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school and gain a stronger foundation in biomedical research by obtaining a Master of Science degree. Once completed, I’d like to attend medical school.


How does your internship relate to your future career plans?
The internship gave me direction and drive. I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I came to Covenant, but I wasn’t sure what shape that would take. Learning about women’s health, different types of cancers, and the treatments available through Ocala Oncology made the medical field more accessible to me. Although I was definitely not interested in oncology when I decided to pursue this internship, the experience has made it more appealing to me. I am more likely to look into cancer research as well as oncology as a profession when I graduate because of this guiding experience.

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