Fiona Power & Katie Buckhout - Beth Israel Deaconess Health Care
This summer, we were fortunate enough to spend two weeks interning at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare in Wayland with Dr. Deborah Riester. Dr. Riester is a physician and endocrinologist who specializes in Primary Care and Internal Medicine. Endocrinologists specialize in treating disorders of the endocrine system. Some examples are diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and many other things. Our internship was a mix of remote days, telemedicine days, and days spent in the office.
On the remote days and the telemedicine days we would facetime with patients who were kind enough to let us learn about their cases. If we weren't on a facetime, Dr. Riester would give us terms or conditions to research. We would research something related to the patients we saw, which helped us better understand the patient’s conditions. When we were in the office we greeted and roomed patients, talked to the patients about their medical problems, and shadowed the doctors and nurses. Dr. Riester also has a shelf full of pamphlets and information about diabetes medicines. We went through all of the pamphlets and medicine cards and learned about medicines.
Dr. Riester’s patients had come in for appointments for a wide range of reasons, and we learned so much from every patient. Many of Dr. Riester’s patients are diabetics so we gained a lot of knowledge about diabetes. When treating patients with diabetes, Dr. Riester would order an HbA1c test, among other tests, to monitor blood sugar levels. The test helps Dr. Riester see how well the patients are managing their diabetes. The higher your A1C level is, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications. A normal A1C level is below 5.7% and a level greater than 6.5% indicated diabetes. A reasonable A1C for type 2 diabetics is 7%-8%. After looking at the patient's A1C, Dr. Riester would adjust medications and talk about the patient’s lifestyle in order to help the patients have a reasonable A1C level. Dr. Riester also taught us about many different medicines the diabetics take which was very interesting to learn about.
We also completed a research project on diabetic patients while working with Dr. Riester. As diabetic patients are constantly trying to lower their HbA1C to live the healthiest lifestyle possible, we decided to look at patient records and see the effects the pandemic could have played in improving or worsening blood sugar levels. As can be seen in the pie chart below, A1C levels for two-thirds of the patients A1C levels increased which means that their blood has more sugar in it. We think that the pandemic increased A1C levels for multiple reasons. First, people were not testing them as much as before. Also, some people were not active during the pandemic, working from home, etc so they were not burning as many calories as usual. Also, peoples diets may have changed during the pandemic, leading to increased A1C’s.
We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with Dr. Riester for two weeks this summer. We want to thank Mr. Schlenker, Dr. Riester, and all the staff and patients from Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare in Wayland. We have had an amazing experience and learned more than we ever thought possible. This internship has taught us so much and deepened our interest in the field of medicine. We have loved learning about what a career in the medical field could look like for us and are forever grateful for that.