Summary

The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program allows exceptional MD, DVM, and DDS students to shift course and conduct rigorous research at top institutions throughout the US.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Medical Research Fellows Program has selected 79 talented medical and veterinary students to conduct in-depth, mentored biomedical research. Fifty-three percent of the awardees are female, the greatest representation of women in the program to date. Starting this summer, each fellow will spend a year pursuing basic, translational, or applied biomedical research at one of 32 academic or nonprofit research institutions across the United States. Each medical fellow receives $43,000 in grant support, and fellows are eligible to apply for a second year in the program.

“The Med Fellows Program allows exceptional MD, DVM, and DDS students to effectively shift course and conduct rigorous research at top institutions throughout the country,” says David Asai, senior director in science education at HHMI. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for future physicians, veterinarians, and dentists to explore the intersection of medicine and scientific discovery, and we hope that each student comes away further empowered to pursue a career as a physician-scientist.”

Now, 28 years after the Med Fellows Program was first launched, it has helped more than 1,700 medical, veterinary, and dental students establish a foothold in the research world. In this year’s group, 18% of the fellows are from minority groups typically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, and seven fellows will continue their research for another year. Tolu Rosanwo, a second-year fellow and medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, says the program is a gift, but for Rosanwo, it was a gift that left her wanting more.

“I couldn’t leave just as my research was starting to show promise,” she says. “I’m still intrigued by my initial question, and I want to see it through.”

That initial question dates back to Rosanwo’s childhood, growing up with two siblings with sickle cell anemia. Her curiosity about what caused them to be sick turned into a committed desire to understand and contribute to a treatment for the disorder. Now, in the laboratory of George Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School and an alumnus of the HHMI Investigator Program, she’s trying to tackle that question. “An important and profound place to be is in between science and patients,” she says. “I want to be a physician whose patient care is informed by research, and vice versa.”

Anna Cheng, a first-year fellow and current medical student at University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, started dabbling in the scientific method as a high school student. Science had always interested her, but when her best friend and her godmother found themselves in a fight against cancer, Cheng decided to narrow her scientific focus.

“My best friend was diagnosed with leukemia and my godmother with ovarian cancer. I wanted to understand why – to figure it out,” she says. “Yes, I was interested in cancer research, but I had personal factors that really drove me.”

During her undergraduate studies at Duke University, Cheng continued to make time for lab research, fitting it in over summers and in between coursework. And though she valued the experiences, the fleeting glimpses of bench time only whet her appetite for more. The Med Fellows Program, she says, provided her the opportunity for more sustained exposure to research.

“I feel so fortunate, because now I get to pursue a project for an entire year,” she says. After a thoughtful pause, she amends her statement. “But the program’s experience isn’t really just a year. It’s something that will serve me well for the rest of my career.”

The Med Fellows Program takes a multilevel mentoring approach to help incoming fellows get off to a strong start, make new connections, and access a network of support throughout their fellowship year. Various meetings bring the fellows together to connect with newly minted Med Fellow alumni, early-career faculty, and senior investigators to participate in seminars and learn from physician-scientists at various career stages. The most direct form of support comes from each fellow’s mentor. Cathy Wu, an alumna from the early days of the Med Fellows Program and associate professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will be mentoring her third Med Fellow this fall.

“The fellows are such a terrific bunch – they’re brimming with enthusiasm, super smart, and eager to learn,” Wu says. As someone who took great inspiration from her own mentors as a student in the program, Wu emphasizes that the mentor-mentee relationship is a crucial part in learning how to approach investigation.

“Part of the Med Fellows Program is getting a sense of the opportunities and resources available – having the latitude to explore and learn about the investigative process. When I was a fellow, the program helped me cement research as part of my medical career,” she says. “I’m eager for these students to have their year, too.”

In collaboration with HHMI, five partners – the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF), Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), and Parkinson’s Foundation (PF) – will fund 8 of the 79 aspiring physician- and veterinarian- scientists, bringing the program’s total investment to $3.4 million.



20172018 Medical Research Fellows

Name Fellowship Institution School
Zachary Abecassis

Funder: 
PF

Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine

Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine
Oscar Alcoreza

Funder: CURE

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Sarah Amalraj Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Amir Ameri Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Annabelle Anandappa Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Sydney Ariagno Weill Cornell Medical College Weill Cornell Medical College
Rahul Bhansali Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine University of Illinois College of Medicine
Jessica Briscoe Harvard Medical School Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Kelly Buchanan Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Joshua Casaos Johns Hopkins University

School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University

School of Medicine
Ankush Chandra University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Wayne State University School of Medicine
Leslie Chang Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Tafadzwa Chaunzwa Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Cynthia Chen Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Jasper Chen University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center University of Texas Medical School at Houston
Xiang Chen University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Anna Cheng Harvard Medical School USF Health Morsani College of Medicine
Bennet Cho Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Janice Cho University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Wake Forest School of Medicine of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Simon Chu University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Michelle Chung

Funder: FFB
Harvard Medical School Indiana University School of Medicine
Shang-Lin Chung Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Heather desJardins-Park Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Michael Dong University of Virginia School of Medicine University of Virginia School of Medicine
Rebecca Fine Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Alyssa Flores Stanford University School of Medicine Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Mollie Friedlander Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Jonathan Gaillard Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Adri Galvan University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine
Alexandra Giantini Larsen Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Eva Gillis-Buck University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Mary Guan University of Michigan Medical School University of Michigan Medical School
Aditi Gupta Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Weill Cornell Medical College
Jennifer Hu

Funder: ASHG
Harvard Medical School Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Charles Hwang University of Michigan Medical School University of Michigan Medical School
Filip Istvanic University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Christopher Itoh Harvard School of Public Health University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
Christopher Jackson Yale School of Medicine Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Hudin Jackson Baylor College of Medicine  University of Connecticut Health Center, School of Medicine
Audrey Kindsfather University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Brandon Law Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Solomon Levin Rockefeller University Weill Cornell Medical College
Selena Li Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Yuping Li Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine
Connor Liu Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Emily MacDuffie Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Emily Marre Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
Anna Martin

Funder: BWF
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Austin Moore University of Texas Southwestern Medical School University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
Aaron Oswald Rockefeller University Weill Cornell Medical College
Monica Pomaville Harvard Medical School Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Paula Rambarat Duke University School of Medicine Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Michael Randall Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Spencer Richardson St. Jude Children's Research Hospital University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine
Jonathan Rick University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Kevin Rolnick

Funder: FFB
University of Washington School of Medicine University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Harsh Shah Harvard Medical School Mayo Medical School
Diana Shi Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Ornella Simo Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Meharry Medical College
Kelsey Spaur University of Colorado at Boulder University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine
Marta Stevanovic

Funder: FFB
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California Emory University School of Medicine
Erica Storm Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Amy Ton University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Yoshiko Toyoda Weill Cornell Medical College Weill Cornell Medical College
Katherine Turnbull

Funder: BWF
University of Michigan Medical School Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Amy Wang Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Nicholas Wilcox Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Yuanxuan Xia Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Erin Yamamoto Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Steven Zhang University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Connie Zhao Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Justin Zhuo Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine

2016–2017 Medical Research Fellows funded for an additional year in the program

Name Fellowship Institution School
Thomas Chad Binns Janelia Research Campus University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine
Benjamin Kress University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry State University of New York Upstate Medical University
Gabriel Neves Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Joseph Park Harvard Medical School Boston University School of Medicine
Tolulope Rosanwo Harvard Medical School Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Andrew Sohn

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
Rukayat Taiwo Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

For More Information

Meghan Rosen 301-215-8859 rosenm2@hhmi.org