A Clinical Researcher’s Guide to Finding Purpose in Everything

Using both her biology major and Spanish minor, Rachael Goldsmith ’19 works as a clinical research assistant for COVID-19 treatment trials at Hennepin Healthcare Infectious Disease Research Department. She’s grateful for how her Bethel experience prepared her with a strong science foundation, a fluency in Spanish, and the ability to connect with patients as whole and holy people.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

November 20, 2020 | Noon

Biology major Rachael Goldsmith '19 currently works as a clinical researcher on COVID-19 treatment trials for Hennepin Healthcare.

Biology major Rachael Goldsmith '19 currently works as a clinical researcher on COVID-19 treatment trials for Hennepin Healthcare.

When Rachael Goldsmith ’19 left Bethel, she had no idea what the first year after graduation would turn into. The biology major entered the workforce just weeks after returning from Guatemala, a semester she spent abroad to finish her Spanish minor, and the only thing she had officially decided was taking a break before heading to medical school.

She had no idea that she’d eventually work three jobs—as a medical scribe, barista, and clinical research intern. She had no idea she’d be furloughed as a medical scribe due to the pandemic, or that a short time later she’d be hired as a full-time research assistant for a COVID-19 treatment trial at Hennepin Healthcare Infectious Disease Research Department. She had no idea that she’d be using her Spanish daily as she formed relationships with patients in the months-long trial.

Goldsmith ultimately had no idea she’d love her job as a research assistant so much. “It’s really a dream come true,” she says. “I love this position. I wouldn’t want to be spending my time doing anything else.” 

As the world waits for the development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Goldsmith and her team of fellow RAs are working on three different trials to treat the virus. One trial focuses on the inflammation accompanying COVID-19, while two other trials examine antibody treatments. She and her coworker work on treatment trials, and every other week, they rotate who enrolls patients in the trial and who collects and enters data into their system. They stay in touch with patients for two to three months as they’re in the hospital and then once they return home to see how they continue to respond to the medication.

Goldsmith had always been interested in clinical research, and that interest only grew during her time at Bethel. Through the C. Weldon Jones Memorial Research Scholarship, she studied breast cancer with Professor of Biology Paula Soneral. Because of this project, Goldsmith stepped right into the COVID-19 research process—she knew what questions to ask as well as how to work hard and efficiently. “I think I had an advantage by understanding research as a whole,” Goldsmith says. “I was well-prepared to do a lot of work, and Bethel’s arduous biology and chemistry classes helped me understand the foundations of science really well.”

Bethel also shaped Goldsmith’s perspective of treating patients as human beings first rather than focusing on their role in a clinical study. Especially as she interacts with people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, she does her best to be gentle and a comfort to those in isolation from their families. “Knowing that somebody is comfortable talking to me about how they’re actually feeling and how they’re doing is something that I’m super grateful for,” Goldsmith says. “I was well prepared for this by going to a college that emphasized people as whole and holy humans.” 

And part of honoring their humanity is meeting them where they are, and Goldsmith is thrilled to use Spanish to connect with patients as they cope with COVID-19. While she hadn’t taken this position expecting to use her minor, she has been grateful and surprised by how frequently the opportunities arise, and now she uses Spanish daily as she meets patients, checks in on them during their hospital stay, and then when she calls to hear how they’re recovering. Because of her time in Guatemala and taking Languages and Cultures classes, she was well-prepared to utilize her skills to make the Spanish-speaking community in Minneapolis feel seen. 

While Goldsmith invests in her job—which serves individuals both on a personal level as they receive treatment and on a global scale as researchers aim to produce an effective COVID-19 vaccine—she’s learning how to appreciate this season between graduating from Bethel and starting medical school. Although she initially felt restless as she navigated three jobs and wondered what would become of her gap year, she has since realized that each of those jobs helped her find her purpose. “There is truly purpose in the everyday and the mundane and the journey,” Goldsmith says. “To people who graduate and feel like they’re not in their dream position right away, all things come in time. For the first year, you will get through it, especially if you have plans to go back to school in the future. There’s purpose to the whole pre-med track even if I don’t go to medical school. It’s all part of growing me into the human and the person I am supposed to be.”

Goldsmith’s future is full of countless opportunities. Some, like medical school, are part of her plan—while other dreams are wilder and still somewhat hazy, like owning a bakery in France. “I’ve always loved cooking and baking, and if I could own a bakery—a fun little mix of American classics and French pastries—that would be my ultimate dream. It would be kind of a stretch, and I’d push myself to my limits, but over something a little less stressful, like croissants, rather than healthcare,” Goldsmith laughs. 

However, she is certainly in no rush to continue her education or move across the world, especially as she finds great fulfillment in her role right now. “I don’t know how much time I’ll be taking off with this job,” she says. “I really, really like this period of life right now. “I’m just excited to take my time.”

Pre-Medicine and Healthcare Professions at Bethel 

Bethel offers many opportunities to prepare for careers in health professions, including pre-med options. Various undergraduate and graduate majors provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue careers in medicine, nursing, dentistry, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy, and other healthcare fields. With a long-standing tradition of solid pre-med and healthcare programs, our graduates gain admission into well-known professional schools that launch them into meaningful careers. 

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