Hello from Boston!
I arrived safely in the last week of February, after a year of uncertainty about whether this trip would be even remotely possible to conduct due to COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, travel is not as easy as it used to be. This trip has been postponed several times, flight tickets have been cancelled and rebooked dozens of times, and hopes and dreams have been put on hold countless times. On top of that, a lot of worries, fear and contemplation about moving away from home, family and friends in these pandemonium times had to be overcome. However, this is a dream I have had ever since I was a little girl growing up in a tiny student apartment in downtown Oslo with my young immigrant parents who literally worked day and night to provide for us. So, hopes and dreams prevailed thanks to them.
I was very lucky to be granted the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue my research on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in colonoscopy and colorectal cancer screening, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School – a world renowned medical research environment. The fact is that we will have to continue battling cancer both during and after the pandemic has been defeated. Cancer is not going away any time soon. Thus, we must keep on doing research on how to improve life for our patients.
After my arrival here in Boston, I immediately started on the preparations for the research study I was going to conduct at the hospital. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there are still a lot of restrictions in place, such as masks, digital meetings instead of physical meetings, and lunch breaks all alone. These restrictions can make it harder to get to know colleagues and make new friends. However, Bostonians and hospital staff were extremely generous right from the beginning and made my transition to a new country and workplace go as smoothly as possible. I was soon invited to Zoom-meetings, lunch with a COVID-friendly distance and even a dinner with colleagues at a restaurant that followed all the infection control guidelines etc. Coming to a new country during COVID-19, was as hard in the beginning as one can imagine. But now, two months into my research stay, I can honestly say that my experience as a visiting guest researcher during a pandemic, is an experience I would not be without. It has made me more resilient, more adaptive to change, expanded my academic horizon and I have already learned many valuable lessons both from my colleagues, but also people I have met outside of work. Not many people can say that they did their research stay during a pandemic, and I am grateful to U.S. – Norway Fulbright Foundation for giving me this unique opportunity to learn from the most brilliant clinicians and minds, and to be able to apply this knowledge back home.
I hope my stay in Boston will generate new ideas and knowledge that can be used to better colorectal cancer diagnostics and treatment with AI. Many thanks to family, friends and U.S. – Norway Fulbright Foundation, for their unrelenting support!