ATLANTA — Growing up with a surgeon for a father, Melani Macik was inspired to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in the medical field. Thanks to an internship with the Grady Trauma Project (GTP), Macik is well on her way to living out her dream.
GTP is a combination of several studies focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in different groups of people. Macik, a fourth-year Neuroscience student, is working on the GTP Pregnancy Project, which studies the effects of pregnancy and PTSD symptoms in African American women.
“I know how important this project is,” said Macik, who is also a student in Georgia State’s Honors College. “Black women are often underrepresented in research and in medicine, and this project could open a lot of eyes to what PTSD looks like in pregnant Black women.”
One of the goals of the project is to improve the well-being of mothers before and after pregnancy. According to research conducted by the GTP, Black women experience disproportionately higher rates of cumulative trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress.
Through her internship, Macik is responsible for collecting data, screening participants for PTSD symptoms and assisting researchers who process blood samples to test the stress levels of a patient’s body. She’s also responsible for performing tests that measure fear response by asking participants to view a range of images on a screen.
“This internship experience has really prepared me for grad school and what I plan on doing in my career,” Macik said. “I work with a lot of people who are passionate about what they’re doing, and I think that’s important. It helps keep me going.”
Macik said she developed her love and passion for neuroscience through her father, Paul, who worked at Northside Hospital.
“Growing up, we would have conversations all the time about the brain and how it responds to the environment around it,” Macik said. “That’s how I developed a love for what I do.”
Macik’s father died in November 2021.
“My father made me believe I could do whatever I wanted to do,” Macik said. “He always helped to support my interests.”
Macik plans to apply to graduate school to focus on clinical research involving schizophrenic and bipolar patients. She wants to work directly with patients in a psychiatric facility.
Macik said she knows her father would be proud of the impact she’s making in the medical field.
“My dad would really love to know what I’m doing,” she said. “When I explain what I’m doing to people who don’t understand science, they realize the importance of what I’m doing, and I think that’s really cool.”
-Photo by Raven Schley