September 2023 Update

Your quarterly update from the MCGI team
July 2023 — September 2023

2024 MCGI Forum - Save the Date

Mark your calendars for the 2024 Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI) Forum taking place on Friday, April 12 - Saturday, April, 13 at the Sheraton Resort at Sable Oaks in South Portland, Maine.

📅 Save the Date: April 12-13, 2024

 📍  Venue: Sheraton Resort at Sable Oaks, South Portland, Maine

The MCGI Forum promises two days of engaging sessions, thought-provoking discussions, and networking opportunities. Next year's conference will delve into patient advocacy, clinical trials and technology, emerging research, and new treatment approaches.

Here's a sneak peek at what to expect:

  • Interactive workshops: Gain practical, hands-on experience with mock genomic tumor board (GTB) workshops and more.
  • Panel discussions: Participate in dynamic discussions with leading experts.
  • Networking opportunities: Connect with fellow professionals, innovators, and like-minded peers.
  • Social events: Enjoy an evening reception and social activities.

Stay tuned for more details on speakers, sessions, and registration information, which will be coming your way soon.

We look forward to seeing you in South Portland in April 2024!


Tune in to JCO Precision Oncology Conversations: Implementation of the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative

JCO Precision Oncology Conversations is a monthly podcast featuring conversations between authors of JCO Precision Oncology articles and the journal's social media editor and host, Dr. Abdul Rafeh Naqash.

Listen to the latest episode: Implementation of the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative. Host Dr. Rafeh Naqash and Dr. Rueter discuss the initiative's success and its implementation for access to precision oncology in rural settings.


Join us at 2023 Day of Hope Celebration!

We are excited to announce the upcoming MaineGeneral Day of Hope celebration on Saturday, October 7th, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, ME. This special day serves as a unifying platform, bringing together individuals, families, and healthcare professionals to support and inspire those affected by cancer.

For event details and updates, please visit MaineGeneral's official website.

During this annual gathering, an array of booths will be on display for you to explore. MCGI will be hosting a table and we welcome you to come visit us, connect with our team, and learn more about the impactful work we do. It is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations, share experiences, and discover the vital roles various departments and industries play in Maine cancer care.


Free Educational Resources

You have a patient with metastatic colon adenocarcinoma. They have a family history suggestive of Lynch syndrome. A large genomic tumor test (GTT) has been done with no variants identified in Lynch syndrome genes. Does this patient need germline testing?

A.     No, GTT would have found a germline variants

B.     Yes, GTT misses up to 10% of germline variants

C.     Maybe, it depends on the type of GTT

Learn more in the short resource Indications for Germline Testing in Cancer Patients or take a deeper dive and earn free CME or CNE in the case-based module Indications for Germline Testing after Genomic Tumor Testing.


MCGI Intern Alumni Spotlight

In this featured segment, we highlight 10 MCGI alumni, each of whom has embarked on diverse paths since their internships. We are honored to share their professional accomplishments and the enduring influence of their MCGI experience. Discover how their internships contributed to their growth, prepared them for their current roles or further studies, and the specific lessons and skills that aided them in navigating challenges and seizing opportunities in their careers. These alumni stories illustrate how MCGI internships help to foster well-rounded, adaptable professionals who are ready to excel in a wide range of fields.


Michelle Cao – 2020 MCGI Alumni


After finishing my internship with MCGI, I graduated from Colby College in 2021 with my bachelor’s in arts and began medical school at the NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine! Medical school has been a fantastic journey and I have had the opportunity to work on multiple research projects, help run a free clinic, and present my work at conferences around the country. During my clinical years, I found that I loved the field of obstetrics and gynecology. I am currently applying to residency programs and will begin my ob/gyn training next year after I graduate!


MCGI taught me so much about healthcare and the disparities that patients all over the country face, especially in rural areas! Working with MCGI has made me more thoughtful about how individuals face hardships with medical care. I also learned so much about research and collaboration in patient care and how deeply the basic sciences are integrated with medical care.


My internship with MCGI taught me so many skills that I continue to use as a medical student. I learned how to work on a team and with people from different professional backgrounds and expertise. I also learned how to organize and analyze clinical research. Not only do I use these skills every day while caring for patients, but I have been able to apply what I learned to my own research projects! As a student, I led a research project on improving pre-eclampsia management in obstetrical patients thanks to my experiences as an MCGI intern. I could not be more grateful to have had such an enriching experience during undergrad!



Luisa Coakley – 2021 MCGI Alumni


Since interning at MCGI, I worked at a biotech startup called NextRNA Therapeutics as a DevOps engineer for the last year and a half. I have also completed my AWS Cloud Practitioner certification. Currently, I am in between jobs and am hiking the Colorado Trail! 


Being an intern at MCGI inspired me to continue learning and growing as a DevOps engineer and software engineer. It showed me how impactful I could be towards a larger goal. It also showed me that even though I was a recent graduate, I have a deep capacity and passion for gaining new skills and being a valued member of a team. I will always be grateful to the MGCI team for showing me that!


I gained the skills necessary for interacting with researchers and being able to ask the questions necessary in order to provide useful solutions. I learned how to approach DevOps problems and break them down into manageable portions allowing me to be a more independent and productive team member during my most recent position at NextRNA Therapeutics.



Samuel Donahue – 2019 MCGI Alumni


Since my MCGI internship during my sophomore year of college, I have continued to learn and grow my data and software engineering skills. During my junior year, I was selected to present my work at MCGI at the Colby Cancer Consortium, a group of professors, students, alumni, and others (such as Dr. Walensky) focusing on cancer biology and research. In my junior summer, I interned as a data scientist at Seer Bio, a proteomics company in the Bay Area. In my senior year, I was able to do an independent study with Professor Tilden on the applications of deep learning in bioinformatics. In May of 2022, I graduated from Colby with a double major in computational biology and history. After graduation, I moved back to the Bay Area and started work as a data scientist at BrightDrop, an electric vehicle company focused on decarbonizing last-mile delivery.


Working at MCGI was immensely beneficial and gave me some foundational skills and insights I still use. While at The Jackson Lab/MCGI I got to experience what it is like to work at a large company full of brilliant people and the energy that created. I also learned how much I enjoyed working with relative independence but with mentors around to help when needed, and on tough problems. Interestingly enough, MCGI also helped prepare me for a remote world as I was working remotely even before the pandemic started. Perhaps most impactfully, my time at MCGI helped me realize how important it is to work for a company with a mission that I believe in. Feeling like one’s work is making a positive and tangible difference in the world is incredibly fulfilling.


I learned a lot of specific skills at MCGI that I carry with me today. At MCGI I got my first introduction to industry-level software development and learned the basic skills I still use every day such as git and unit testing. I was also introduced to many of the professional aspects of software development like stand-up meetings and working on a distributed team. MCGI also taught me how to be a productive remote worker, as well as the importance of self-advocating and strong communication.



Abby Eng – 2022 MCGI Alumni


After my internship with MCGI, I graduated from Colby College in May 2022 and started working for a health insurance company. My company Granular Insurance is a subsidiary of Verily Life Sciences, an Alphabet company. I’ve worked as a sales specialist at Granular for a little over a year now and will become a junior account manager this October. I’ve earned my accident and health insurance license which will allow me to sell A&H insurance in the state of California.


My experience as an intern for MCGI helped to prepare me for the large amount of multi-tasking that the nature of a start-up company requires. I’m glad that I’ve been able to experience and learn about different areas within the health sector through my internship and current job.


My internship helped to cultivate my go-getter attitude and work ethic outside the classroom setting. With a start-up, all departments are constantly trying to improve and implement new processes which I’ve supported in various ways, whether working to update our current CRM platform, create new resources, or update existing resources for new and current employees. I also planned and executed an extremely successful recruiting trip to Colby and Bowdoin from which we hired six people to join the sales specialist team!



Cristen Flewellen – 2019 MCGI Alumni


Since my internship with MCGI concluded in May 2020, I returned home to Atlanta, GA, and became a COVID-19 tester and coordinator for GI Care for Kids. For a year, I grew my clinical skills and patient interaction as I conducted nasopharyngeal swabs for hundreds of children before their endoscopies/colonoscopies. By the fall of 2021, I transitioned to Nashville, TN, and began the master of health science program at Meharry Medical College. The academic achievement from this program helped me to matriculate to the school of medicine the following year. Currently, I am a second-year medical student at Meharry. In addition to being a student, I am the co-historian for my class and the secretary for the Family Medicine Interest Group. Last month, I returned from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Conference where I was recognized as one of the Family Medicine Leads Scholarship recipients.


The post-baccalaureate at MCGI was my first professional job. I learned more about my strengths and areas of growth and left with increased confidence in my ability to be a well-rounded physician.


MCGI showed me how health initiatives help people better understand their personal health and achieve their health goals. I aim to include a similar scope of community medicine in my budding career. In addition, I learned how important a supportive work environment is as I strive to be the first physician in my family.



Rachel Male –2017 MCGI Alumni


Since my internship with MCGI, I have been refining my passion for helping others. I began taking classes in public health where I studied discrimination and women’s health. These interests inspired me to intern at a residential program for survivors of human sex trafficking. I completed my bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and a minor in public health. I continued on this path by working as an advocate for sex-trafficked youth in Texas. Now, I am a first-year law student honing my ability to have a greater impact on survivors of trauma.


Being an intern with MCGI had a significant impact on both my educational and career development. This internship was my first experience in a professional work environment and solidified my desire to be in a helping profession. MCGI and JAX are both highly regarded across the globe. I carry with me the pride of having had the opportunity to intern under some of the brightest, kindest, and most innovative researchers, doctors, and managers in the industry. One of the assignments I had during my internship was to review cases and highlight information pertinent to the study. I found this task particularly interesting, and it prepared me to efficiently review legal and social work files both professionally and academically.


During my internship, I learned how to work effectively with others and the importance of prioritizing patients’ needs. It was powerful to see a team of people come together to analyze and implement treatment plans that were specific to individual needs in order to provide better physical and mental health outcomes. I have carried this skill with me and use it as a model for how I believe my clients, and all people experiencing trauma, deserve to receive care.



Cameron Schluter – 2022 MCGI Alumni 


Since my internship with MCGI in 2022, I graduated from Colby College and moved to Boston to continue to pursue my research interests in oncology at the Mass General Center for Cancer Research, exploring therapeutic inhibitors for acute myeloid leukemia resistant to chemotherapies. I have thoroughly enjoyed continuing to explore the mechanisms of cancer and through this experience have witnessed the biological background of leukemia, and its translation into clinical environments, while working with the main hospital. I also received a high-impact publication in Blood. Additionally, while debating my routes of continuing to pursue research or become a physician, I filled my free time by taking additional classes in physics and medical Spanish, sought after clinical volunteering and tutoring opportunities, and took to the outdoors, when possible, even visiting Utah to hike Angel's Landing and Maine to hike Tumbledown.


My time with MCGI was an incredible opportunity that exposed me to the uncommon experience of conducting cutting-edge research in a rural healthcare setting, and in the wonderful state of Maine no less. I found my work with MCGI to be invaluable for elucidating the translational side of medicine by performing research objectives that directly impact the Maine community, as regularly seen while spending time constructing patient databases as well as observing tumor boards with Maine oncologists. This opportunity undoubtedly fueled my interest in cancer research and in providing for rural underserved populations which I will be sure to carry with me as I pursue a medical or scientific career.


Many of the lessons and connections I've gained from my time with MCGI I still hold close today. Specifically, mastering the art of RedCap was an essential skill that has allowed me to assist and initiate clinical research projects with colleagues. I am currently using REDCap and certainly will continue to do so given its ubiquity in clinical studies. Establishing these collaborations through my skillset gained at MCGI has opened a large door for me to aid in clinical studies. Overall, I found the familiarity that MCGI provided in working with various researchers and physicians, troubleshooting projects, and establishing individualized mentorship to be monumental for my professional aspirations in oncology.



Abbi Smith – 2018 MCGI Alumni


When my internship ended at the end of August 2018, I returned to school and worked on completing my BA in biology at the University of Vermont. I graduated in May of 2020 and applied for jobs in clinical research, inspired largely by my internship through MCGI. I accepted a position at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Protocol Office in June of 2020 as a clinical research coordinator, working alongside oncologists to help clinical trial patients consent, screen, and begin on a variety of studies. Through my time at MGH, I decided to continue my educational journey and began the application process for PA school in the early spring of 2021. I was accepted into the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) in the fall and began my first year in September of 2022. I am currently a second year student and will graduate in May of 2025 as a physician assistant! 


I had never previously been exposed to clinical research, and my experience as an intern with MCGI really opened my eyes to this world. Throughout my internship, I was able to work closely with all members of the MCGI team, and I learned so much about the process of clinical trials and the immense amount of background work that went into running a study. This exposure inspired my job search out of college, which brought me to my position at MGH. During my time at MCGI, my favorite days were those in which there were tumor board meetings. On these days, I was able to sit in on discussions among oncologists from across the country, all collaborating to figure out a single patient’s treatment strategy. While I knew I was interested in healthcare, the collaborative tumor board work that I saw at MCGI solidified my desire to become a PA - a profession that thrives in communicative and team-oriented healthcare environments.


The biggest takeaway that I had from this internship was my discovery of voice, and the comfort that I felt among the MCGI team to make mistakes and to ask “dumb” questions. Being an introverted person, it’s sometimes difficult to step out of my comfort zone and put myself into the center of attention - especially as a college student among so many experienced and intelligent adults. This team allowed me to do just that without fear or anxiety. We had weekly team meetings, and I was expected to keep everyone up to date on my projects and to ask questions when I was struggling or confused. They welcomed me with open arms and allowed me the space to discover my role within the tight-knit group. They taught me the basics of kindness and mutual respect that a team should operate with, something I had not seen in my previous service-industry jobs and which I have taken into all aspects of my life. I am sure that my work with the MCGI team will positively translate into my future work as a PA, and I could not be more grateful for the time I spent with them!



Lily Waddell – 2019 MCGI Alumni


Since my internship with MCGI in 2019, I’ve graduated from college and begun working full-time in Boston. I decided to switch up specialties a little bit and have been working for the past year as a clinical research assistant at the Orthopedic and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research (OrACORe) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I played rugby in college, and so it has been super interesting to work with sports medicine providers and learn about sports injuries from the other side of the patient-provider relationship. I help coordinate clinical trials related to meniscus injuries, ACL tears, and osteoarthritis prevention. I’m also currently applying to medical school, hopefully matriculating in the fall of 2024.


My internship with MCGI absolutely set me up for success in my current role as a clinical research assistant and for professional life in general. Specifically, I think MCGI helped me become a better problem solver and independent worker. I spent a lot of time during my internship creating and maintaining a database of GTT reports, and I learned that instead of immediately asking for help when I ran into problems, I could usually troubleshoot on my own if I spent a little longer working at it - and learn something in the process. MCGI also helped me become better at communicating my findings. I was lucky enough to be able to present posters about my work at MCGI at the 2019 Annual Meeting and 2020 Spring Meeting of the Northern New England Clinical Oncology Society. I was certainly nervous to present my work to experts in clinical oncology, but my wonderful experiences with both NNECOS meetings helped me become more confident and self-assured. Now, when I present to clinicians and researchers at my current job, I don’t feel nervous at all.


MCGI taught me many things, but the lesson or principle that has stuck with me the most is that physicians, scientists, and other professionals in the medical field are almost always willing to provide you with guidance and mentorship if you’re not afraid to ask for it. I’m so grateful for the mentorship I received from Dr. Rueter. Despite being incredibly busy balancing positions at MCGI/JAX and Eastern Maine Medical Center, he was always willing to sit down and talk to me about my work, professional goals, and life in general. Since completing my internship with MCGI, I’ve been fortunate to work with more amazing mentors, including in my current job at OrACORe. However, I never would have purposefully sought out opportunities for professional mentorship if not for the great example set by Dr. Rueter.



Songtao Xu – 2021 MCGI Alumni


Since completing my internship with MCGI, my career has been marked by continuous growth and achievements. I graduated from Colby College and was accepted into the biomedical informatics program at Harvard Medical School, a major milestone in my academic journey. Additionally, I have been working as a graduate research student at Mass Eye and Ear, focusing on bioinformatics research. Parallelly, I have also held a part-time position as a bioinformatics analyst at Dana-Farber, applying my knowledge to real-world problems. During the summer, I had the privilege to be an intern at GlaxoSmithKline, where I was able to contribute to early R&D.


My internship with MCGI helped me demonstrate my abilities and potential in the field, giving me the confidence to pursue more advanced opportunities. The experience and insights I gained during this time made me more attuned to the industry's dynamics, preparing me for future positions. By working in a real-world setting, I was able to understand what employers expect and how to meet those expectations. This experience made me more adaptable and better prepared to seize new opportunities that came my way.


One of the most critical aspects I learned from the internship with MCGI was effective communication, especially with colleagues from different academic backgrounds. This skill has helped me foster collaboration and understanding in diverse teams, enabling smoother workflow and better results. Furthermore, I also developed essential technical skills such as software development, which allowed me to contribute at a deeper level in both research and practical applications. My hands-on experience working in the industry gave me a practical understanding of how to apply theoretical concepts. In essence, the internship not only provided me with the skills and knowledge needed for my current roles but also nurtured my adaptability and problem-solving capabilities, making me a more well-rounded professional.


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