Notes From the Field: Brittany Cleary ’21

Brittany Cleary ’21 interned at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) during the 2018 Summer Term. The following if an excerpt from her internship report.


This summer, I interned at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE), an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), is a nonprofit organization that provides vital reproductive health services to women (and men) regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, and background. Beyond providing healthcare to thousands of patients, PPSNE boasts the second most robust clinical research program among the PPFA affiliates. When companies pioneer new technology to improve medical diagnosis and treatment, they will commission PPSNE to recruit patients and collect samples for clinical research studies to prove to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) that their new innovations are valid and reliable.


Throughout my internship I worked on a clinical research study commissioned by Roche, a Swiss healthcare company seeking FDA approval for its new system for more accurate and precise diagnosis of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). PPSNE was contracted to recruit 1,500 patients to receive a pap smear and, in the event of an abnormality or randomization into a control group, a colposcopy. Because all interpretation of samples occurred through special labs designated by the sponsor, the research department at PPSNE would receive each study participant’s results. It was my responsibility to contact participants with these results, ensure that they received necessary follow-up care, and update their electronic health records appropriately so that the results from the research study could inform future health decisions. I also worked in the health center recruiting and consenting patients, and assisted clinicians with study procedures.


My internship has transformed my understanding of clinical research and its complex yet critical relationship to healthcare. I learned that clinical research studies require a high level of attention to detail. Every single sample must be appropriately labeled and shipped, each participant folder must contain perfectly completed documents, and any mistake must be vigorously documented. There is very little room for error, as even a minor slip-up could mean the termination of the study. I also gained a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between clinical research and patient care. Because new treatments and diagnosis methods must prove themselves before they can be marketed to the public, whenever a patient decides to participate in a clinical trial they are accepting the inherent risk that the new technology may not be effective. Though in many cases this risk is slim, patients still must hold enough faith in the healthcare provider recommending the trial and the company pioneering the technology to agree to put themselves in a vulnerable position in hopes that future generations will benefit. I feel so thankful as to have had the opportunity to intern at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. I am endlessly grateful for the generosity and support of the Rockefeller Center and the David F. Squire '47 Internship Fund.