Lauren Howard

Lauren Howard.
My Bass Connections project has given me a more optimistic view of medicine and has renewed my passion for it.


Neuroscience ’23

Project Team

When I was first thinking about doing research as an undergraduate student at Duke, I considered it more of a requirement to check off before applying to medical school than a passion project.

After joining a Bass Connections team, I was surprised to find that it has been one of my favorite experiences of my undergraduate career thus far. Bass Connections is an easy way to get involved in important research and join a community of students and faculty who are all eager to work together on a particular issue.

Launched in 2017, my program, REGAIN, aims to implement a roadmap for conversations about goals of care and end-of-life decisions for patients with serious illness in the Duke Health System. As a premed student, I sometimes find myself thinking about the ways in which medicine often lacks a humanistic focus. To me, creating open and empathetic communication in medical interactions is vital to provide supportive care. Because of this, my Bass Connections project has given me a more optimistic view of medicine and has renewed my passion for it.

My project in particular has been a great experience and a wonderful opportunity to really get to know people at Duke because it utilizes a wheel-and-spoke model. Our entire team meets weekly to discuss palliative care in general, and I also meet weekly in a much smaller group (two students and two faculty members) to discuss couples communication in cancer.

Through my smaller-group project, I have been able to get involved with an ongoing research study conducted with real couples at the Duke Medical Center. It has been a wonderful experience to learn new skills (a coding system for emotional expression) and apply it to real research that aims to improve communication in the context of serious illnesses.

Both this smaller project and the larger group project have really opened my eyes to the way in which good communication encourages important conversations about goals of care. I feel empowered and honored to be working on a team of ambitious and engaged Duke students and staff on this project.

This Bass Connections program has reaffirmed my passion for medicine and has made research become something I want to continue doing for the remainder of college.