Relationships Drive Mikaela Whaley ’22 in Work with Terminally Ill Patients

As a clinical research coordinator II (CRC II) in the cancer center of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Mikaela Whaley ’22 works exclusively with patients who have terminal illnesses. The relationships she builds with those patients and their families is what she loves most about her work.

As a CRC II, Mikaela, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in chemistry, works with Phase I oncology clinical trials, which indicates that it is the first time the drug or treatment is being tested on humans. In her role, Mikaela says she coordinates scheduling, performs EKGs, processes lab results and works to become a person that patients can trust.

“There are some days where I could be spending up to eight hours with my patient and their spouse and/or family,” Mikaela, a native of Savannah, Georgia, said. “I’ve found that even though sometimes I might be the person patients feel like they can be mad at, sometimes I’m the one who they trust enough to tell things to, and sometimes I’m the one that they want to call when they’re upset. I’m someone who they feel like they can be honest with, and someone who will advocate for them. [It’s] by far my favorite part of my job.”

When she’s not working at MGH, Mikaela is focused on completing an online master’s program in clinical toxicology through the University of Florida. When she finishes her master’s program, which she hopes will be in mid-2025, Mikaela will begin studying for the MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test, so she can start applying to medical school. Though she is still far away from choosing a specialty in the medical field, she said she hopes to find an area in which she can be an advocate for women’s health.

Mikaela credits her Colby-Sawyer experience with helping her develop professional interests she’d never considered.

“CSC provided a lot of growth for my critical thinking skills, which helps a lot when I’m activating a new study or finding ways to fix a problem,” Mikaela said. “I learned a lot about how I learn and was able to take courses like toxicology that sparked something in my brain. [I’m] not sure if I ever would have known if I wasn’t given the opportunity. I had no idea how much one class would affect my job and my decision in pursuing a master’s.”

The most recent outcomes report from the Harrington Center for Experiential Learning indicates that, like Mikaela, 100% of the Class of 2022 is employed or in graduate school. Read more about Colby-Sawyer graduate outcomes.