Leslie Kane, EdD, LPC, NCC | Global Clinical Scholars Research Training, Effective Writing for Health Care

Leslie Kane

 

Leslie Kane, EdD, LPC, NCC, almost didn't attend her first day of the Global Clinical Scholars Research Training (GCSRT) program at Harvard Medical School. "The night before, I had an emotionally paralyzing collapse of imposter syndrome because I have numerous disabilities," she remembers. "I decided I wasn't going. But I woke up the next day and thought, 'Just get up and go.'" In hindsight, she's thankful she did—completing the program has led to a number of fulfilling opportunities as well as several new research directions she pursues to this day. 

Kane, who specializes in mental health counseling, education and supervision, works with patients on anxiety, depression and PTSD. She'd always had a penchant for research and applied on a whim—on her iPhone, no less—after seeing an ad on Facebook. When she received an acceptance email, she couldn't believe that she got in, but even then, she wasn't prepared for how much the program would help her work evolve. "I thought I understood research—my goodness, how little I knew!" she laughs. 

Developing Unexplored Research

The GCSRT program specializes in advanced training in health care research and methods; students are often medical professionals but, as in Kane's case, their expertise can vary across health care fields. Students learn a myriad of research methodologies and complete a capstone project, an NIH-level grant in their area of study that explores a new, previously unasked research question in medical science. 

In addition to her professional focus on trauma, Kane is a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS), bilateral low vision, low hearing, gait disturbances and other disabilities. Thus, her capstone project focused on a grant addressing suicide ideation and suicide attempts for people diagnosed with MS concomitant with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is an understudied and undertreated area of study. 

Both vulnerable populations separately have higher rates of suicide ideation, attempts and completion than the general population; Kane's research was completed with editorial comments from Ebrahim Barkoudah, MD, MPH, and would assess whether patients with both conditions saw even higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts. According to Kane, primary care physicians and neurologists aren't as aware of the incidence of suicidality in patients with MS concomitant with PTSD, and this knowledge could help these doctors send their patients to behavioral health for assessment and treatment.  

Not only did she receive academic commendation for her project, but Kane hopes to actually push forward on the research and ultimately take her work into the field. Her work could even play a role in how she and other patients are treated, she says. Though neurologists don't typically focus on the mental health aspects of treatment, for example, she argues that "a patient could complete an assessment in the waiting room, and the doctor can refer them to a specialist." Her hope is that these patients who experience suicidality could be seen and helped sooner. 

Blended Model, Connected Classmates

Given her conditions, Kane also appreciated the program for its blended learning model, with in-person coursework for three weeks and the bulk of the lectures completed online. The flexibility, she says, allowed her to process the intense lectures and supplementary materials at a pace that worked for her. Graduation was cancelled due to COVID-19, but she and her classmates attended an online ceremony. Even though she wasn't able to reconnect with her fellow students in person, Kane says it was still a thrilling experience. "When you graduate, it's one of the most exciting things in the world—because you made it."

The impacts have been long-lasting for her. Kane discovered a passion for epidemiology after attending lectures taught by Heather Baer, ScD. She learned about drug development and random controlled trials in her two GCSRT electives. She learned biostatistics to such an advanced degree that she no longer has to hire a biostatistician for her own research. 

But the most impactful aspect may have been access to her classmates. "Everyone has a deep understanding of their field—cardiology, nephrology—and you learn so much from each other," she says. Her class hailed from 40 countries in total, and Kane says she has maintained friendships with several of them, including bimonthly Zoom calls to update each other on work and life. "I think I'll have these friends for the rest of my life," she says. 

New Opportunities Post-GCSRT

Kane obtained four new opportunities as a direct result of her classwork and colleagues. She's now working as a volunteer with a GCSRT classmate who's an infectious disease doctor with Walter Reed in Nigeria. Another classmate who started a medical research company reached out to her, and she works as a science writer for him. When she's able to travel again, she'll help a former GCSRT classmate in Argentina with his volunteer work in vaccinating for Chagas disease. Separately, her new understanding of grants and grant writing helped her obtain a position in Colorado as a grant program evaluator for domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault.

After completing the program, Kane was inspired to continue her education even further. Currently, she's attending the Effective Writing for Health Care program to enhance her science writing skills and deepen the work she began with GCSRT. In her track, Designing Clinical Trials, she's learning from medical writers who contribute to publications like The New York Times, The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine, among others. GCSRT co-director, Kenneth Christopher, MD, SM, is also the program director for Effective Writing for Health Care, and Kane says she also appreciates the opportunity to learn consistently from experts in the field.  

And her work won't end there. Next, Kane plans to apply to a master's of public health program in epidemiology at Harvard and push forward with the research that she's begun. The end of the GCSRT program was, ultimately, the start of a new direction for her. 

She encourages others to take the leap and apply. "I thought my disabilities would make me 'not good enough' to be enrolled in this program," she says. "But HMS takes physical challenges seriously and will help anyone else with their challenges, too."


Learn more about Global Clinical Scholars Research Training and Effective Writing for Health Care.

 

Written by Katherine J. Igoe