Hailey Cray ’20 made profound connections with several different communities at the University of Vermont during her academic career, including the biology and women’s and gender studies departments, UVM’s Graduate School, and the Larner College of Medicine. She graduates this May with a B.A. in biology and is already halfway towards earning her master’s in public health at UVM. Now she’s preparing to begin a new job as a clinical research assistant at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Cray, a native of Ferrisburgh, Vt., initially had her sights set on a traditional medical school path. Today, she jokingly calls herself a “reformed pre-med student.”
“When I first started at UVM I was pretty set on not going into research because I wanted to work with people,” she recalls. “It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that there’s a lot of research that focuses on people and their experiences.”
Cray found a home in the gender, sexuality and women studies program, a discipline at UVM that draws from social sciences, physical sciences, and humanities perspectives. “The program was a way to explore the challenges faced by women and other marginalized populations,” she said. “It’s a really close community of students and professors.”
Her interest in science and women’s studies came together through her Honors College thesis with co-investigator and advisor, Dr. Marjorie C. Meyer, who is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the UVM Medical Center. (Cray notes that her connection with Meyer goes back to the very beginning—Meyer was the obstetrician who delivered Cray at Fletcher Allen Hospital).
Cray’s project examines retention rates in medication-assisted therapy centers of Vermont among women who have an opioid use disorder and are pregnant, or are parenting young children. She finds that young mothers with a history of Opioid use are often unable to continue treatment.
“These women face so many challenges through a lack of reliable housing, medical insurance and transportation. These problems can snowball, so we hope to find ways to improve retention in this particularly vulnerable population,” she notes.
At McLean Hospital, her research will focus on a challenge many older patients contend with—Alzheimer’s disease. Cray is intrigued by promising drug trials the hospital is conducting.
“The drug trials are pretty cool. They are experimenting with technology that patients and caregivers can both use to help monitor behaviors in patients with mild cognitive deficits.”