Inspired by her time working at a home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, M1 student Kate Genty took her passion for helping others and used that motivation to help conduct a research study on Closed-Loop DBS and Bradykinesia in Parkinson’s disease.
In March 2021, an opportunity fell into Genty’s lap. She was asked to help take part in helping conduct a research study on Closed-Loop Deep Brain Stimulation and Bradykinesia in Parkinson’s Disease patients for Duke University’s Neurosurgery. Timing was a gift considering she was unaware of her next move. After graduating in May 2020 from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering and a teacher assistant position in Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Design, she gathered knowledge on the effects of Parkinson’s disease. This was a foundation for what was to come, but where did the true inspiration come from? Genty worked at an all-women’s home for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Chicago. Although at times she found it to be challenging emotionally, she searched for an opportunity to gather some medical school experience while also being challenged academically. That would only come with having to gather academia and data from a research study.
While looking for a clinical research program, she was recommended to take part as a research and development engineer in clinical research at Duke University’s Neurosurgery department, which focused on Closed-Loop DBS and Bradykinesia with people affected by Parkinson’s disease. The research consisted of six participants who Genty developed strong relationships with. She would sit with them and observe and record behaviors resulting from various stimulation settings. Participants were affected by what most people consider normal body movement due to dysfunction in the basal ganglia, the movement center of the brain. Genty prepared each study visit by coordinating with multiple faculty and staff members to compile information to make sure each clinic visit was well prepped, and each experiment ran smoothly.
“It takes sometimes up to 20 years to get a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease,” she said as she recalled one of her participants who was a marathon runner whose foot bothered him for years and eventually lead to his diagnosis. Most of the participants involved suffered from hand tremors, so she primarily focused on measuring the amount of hand grasps within 10 seconds or even simply monitoring finger taps between their index fingers to their thumbs. The trials would run five minutes to a few hours depending on the number of exercises that needed to be conducted.
Weeks following her speaking at the School of Engineering Medicine Health Innovations Seminar, Genty said, “I am really passionate about empowering patients especially if they can be in control of their own health.” Her participation in this study solidified her decision to continue to pursue her career in becoming a doctor. What started as an opportunity to gather more experience for medical school turned into making meaningful relationships and cherished conversations as she sat with participants during studies. “This research definitely helped me to be more emphatic and reminded me to always remember each patient is an individual person,” she said.