Working to Promote Safe Access to Fecal Transplants

Monica Seng 17
Monica Seng ’17, Project 55 Fellow at OpenBiome in Boston, MA

Monica Seng was born and raised in the desert paradise of Tucson, AZ. She is the eldest of two daughters of Cambodian immigrants. She majored in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology while earning a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy. In conjunction with the EEB department, she participated in a study-abroad program in Bermuda and spent a summer in Kenya collecting data to reconstruct the social networks of Grevy’s and Plains zebras. At Princeton, she served as a Peer Health Adviser, volunteered in the NICU department at the UMCPP hospital, worked as an Employer Relations Assistant for Career Services, and as the Associate Director of the Formal Services Agency. In her free time, Monica enjoys reading fiction, learning the art of yoga, trying exotic foods, and taking care of animals.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and it is truly astounding to me that it has already been a year since I walked out of the FitzRandolph gates. While my Project 55 Fellowship is not over for a couple of months, I have found that working at OpenBiome has been quite an enlightening and rewarding experience.

Monica Seng and coworkers
Monica Seng ’17 (3rd from left) and her team at OpenBiome, including former Project 55 Fellow Dinara Gabdrakhmanova ’16 (far left).

As one of the largest stool banks in the US, OpenBiome works to provide safe access to fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) material and to catalyze research in the microbiome. My role as a Clinical Outreach Associate gives me the opportunity to support our ever-growing clinical partner network to help treat patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection, which is the number one hospital-acquired infection in the country. My position places me on the “front-lines” of our company as I regularly interface with clinicians, patients, potential donors, and anyone who is interested in learning more about how someone’s stool can bring about a positive impact in another’s life.

Open Biome Impact Infographic_2016

Even though this treatment has been found to be extremely effective for managing C. diff, with an approximate 90% efficacy rate, FMTs are still not FDA approved and treating any other indication involving FMTs must go through a clinical trial. Due to this restriction, one of the challenges of my Fellowship has been hearing the utter disappointment of a sick patient when explaining that we cannot provide this promising remedy for their condition. While it is disheartening to not be able to help every patient that calls, I find solace in the fact that OpenBiome is comprised of an extremely passionate and knowledgeable team who works tirelessly towards a patient-centric mission.

Working for such a young organization has also helped me realize that change happens quickly and how important having a supportive team that values you as a human being, rather than just a cog in the machine, can be. This organization-wide dynamic contributes to our success and it has shaped my views of what principles should be exhibited in the workplace. While I am still unsure about what my next steps are career-wise, my time here has solidified my desire to continue working in the public health sphere and I am excited to be continuing my work at OpenBiome even after my Fellowship officially ends.

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