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Seventy Medical Students Take a Year-Long Plunge into Lab Work

Summary

Seventy students from 27 medical schools across the country will participate in HHMI's year-long Medical Research Fellows Program.

Medical school can be a grueling four-year journey consisting of never-ending memorization, clinical rotations and sleepless nights. So why do some students extend their medical school status by plunging into a research lab for an extra year of studies?

It’s all about the ‘why,’ explains Dylan Wolman, a medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. “A year of research provides an avenue to practice what should be an essential skill in any scientific field: questioning 'why.’ It is a thought exercise that will serve you there by teaching you to question why an unexplained symptom in a particular disease constellation occurs, and perhaps even help you develop the spark necessary to pursue that question to its answer,” Wolman says.

Wolman and another medical student awardee will immerse themselves in a year of intense lab research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus as part of the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program, a $2.5 million annual initiative to increase the training of future physician-scientists. In all, 70 students from 27 medical schools across the country will participate in the year-long Medical Research Fellows Program. More than 1,400 students have participated in the Medical Research Fellows program since its inception in 1989.

A year spent focused on research has been transformative for many fellows, and shaped their interest and determination to become physician-scientists.

Sean B. Carroll

Wolman, who is halfway through his medical studies at Tufts, is taking a year off from medical school to conduct cutting-edge research on brain wiring at Janelia Farm in Ashburn, Virginia. At Janelia Farm, Wolman will use light and electron microscopy techniques to study the neural connectivity between the mouse motor and barrel cortex. He will work under the mentorship of Janelia Farm fellow Davi Bock and group leader Karel Svoboda.

“A year spent focused on research has been transformative for many fellows, and shaped their interest and determination to become physician-scientists,” says Sean B. Carroll, HHMI’s vice president for science education.

One of the medical research fellows will spend a part of his year researching tuberculosis in South Africa. Eric Kalivoda, a student from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, will work at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), in Durban, South Africa, for several months under the mentorship of HHMI investigator William Jacobs. This is the first time that one of the medical fellows will be spending a portion of the fellowship year at K-RITH.

K-RITH is a groundbreaking collaboration between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. K-RITH’s mission is to conduct outstanding basic science research on tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, translate the scientific findings into new tools to control TB and HIV, and expand the educational opportunities in the region. Kalivoda will travel to Durban mid-way through his fellowship, and then return to the United States to spend the rest of the year in Jacobs’ lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“K-RITH offers the unique perspective to study and address HIV/XDR-TB at its epicenter, and I look forward to working with my mentor and the K-RITH team of scientists to develop improved diagnostics for rapid TB drug-susceptibility testing,” said Kalivoda.

David McMullen, a fellow from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, will spend the year doing research on brain-computer interfaces in a non-HHMI lab at Johns Hopkins University. McMullen will work with Hopkins scientists who are developing brain-computer interface technology as a potential treatment that would help patients with neuromuscular damage regain motor function.

"Translational research inspired me to go to medical school. Therefore, having the opportunity to conduct research for a year free of other commitments will allow me to know I am making the right career choices,” said McMullen.

This year HHMI is also launching a Summer Medical Fellows Program, which provides opportunities for medical students to do 8-10 weeks of research in the labs of HHMI or Janelia Farm scientists. HHMI is funding 27 Summer Medical Fellows this year, 19 of whom will do their research at an institution other than their home schools.

“I'm passionate about research and I hope to make it a significant part of my career,” says Maria Bacalao, a summer fellow from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Bacalao will spend her summer characterizing the epigenome of the cholera pathogen in the lab of HHMI investigator Matthew Waldor at Harvard Medical School. “By spending a summer doing research, we can gain a greater appreciation about how science advances and scientific knowledge is created. I think this can be tremendously useful in learning to better appreciate the basic science we learn in school,” she says.

“We expect that the new Summer Medical Fellows Program will encourage more students to engage in rigorous research training during the summer in HHMI laboratories, and that these experiences will motivate them to pursue a full year of research through the Medical Research Fellows Program,” said William Galey, director of HHMI’s graduate and medical education programs.

Background: The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program

The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program allows medical, dental, and veterinary students to pursue biomedical research at a laboratory anywhere in the United States except the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. When applying for the program, each student submits a research plan to work in a specific lab with a mentor they have identified.

This year, 226 students from 68 different medical schools applied for the program. The fellows spend a year away from their medical courses and clinical rotations to do laboratory research. The students also get an opportunity to interact with HHMI scientists at HHMI-sponsored meetings throughout the year. Fellows usually choose to do research at their home institution, but this year 20 will work in labs at a different school.

HHMI has continued its partnership with outside organizations in order to expand the number of students participating in the year-long program. Four additional fellows will be funded in addition to the 66 positions that HHMI supports for the 2012-2013 academic year. The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB, www.FightBlindness.org) will support two medical research fellows conducting research in the area of retinal degenerative diseases.

"We are very pleased to be partnering with HHMI to introduce up-and-coming physicians to laboratory-based retinal degeneration research," says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. "With more potential vision-saving treatments entering clinical trials every year, we are very much in need of their talent and passion to conduct human studies in the future. More than 10 million people in the U.S., and millions more around the world, are affected by retinal degenerations. These young clinician-researchers have the opportunity to make a major impact on countless lives by focusing on retinal research in their careers."

HHMI also has partnerships with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to support fellowships for veterinary students, the GM Trust to fund students studying Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and the Society of Interventional Radiology Foundation to conduct preclinical interventional radiology research.

“The Medical Research Fellows Program is attracting a large, extremely talented pool of applicants. Consequently there are many more highly qualified applicants than available positions,” said Galey. “We are seeking funding partners to expand the number of positions available to support these students at this pivotal point in their education.”

In the 2013-2014 academic year, the Medical Research Fellows Program will represent about half of all the externally funded year-out fellowships available nationally for medical students interested in becoming physician-scientists.

The year-long experience continues to have an important impact on HHMI’s awardees. Sixteen of the 71 current medical fellows expressed interest in continuing their research projects for a second year. Additionally, four of the current medical fellows have decided to pursue a Ph.D. before returning to complete their medical degrees.

 

2012-2013 Medical Research Fellows
Name Fellowship Institution School
Sha-har Admoni Rockefeller University Weill Cornell Medical College
Zain Ahmed Harvard Medical School Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Jeremy Allred Harvard Medical School Medical College of Wisconsin
Eric Black-Maier Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
David Blauvelt Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Eddie Blay Stanford University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Floyd Buen University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Leo Chen University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Michael Chung Stanford University School of Medicine University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Joshua Clevenger Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Christopher Cox Janelia Farm Research Campus University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Sara De La Rosa University of Michigan Medical School University of Michigan Medical School
Anne Donato Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Gregory Eckenrode University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Asiri Ediriwickrema Yale University School of Medicine Yale University School of Medicine
Taoyuan Feng Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Elisha Garg David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Emily Gotschlich New York University School of Medicine New York University School of Medicine
Kathryn Griffin Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Mihir Gupta Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Allen Ho University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Harvard Medical School
Ayaka Iwata University of Washington School of Medicine New York University School of Medicine
Andrew Ji Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Weill Cornell Medical College
Hansi Jiang University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School University of Washington School of Medicine
Eric Kalivoda Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University University of Vermont College of Medicine
Haben Kefella* Yale University School of Medicine Yale University School of Medicine
Soorin Kim University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Tri Le Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Jaewon Lee Harvard Medical School Tufts University School of Medicine
George Li Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Amy Liu University of Washington School of Medicine Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Mengfei Liu Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Cesar Lopez Angel Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Leo Luo Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Frances Mao Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Xenos Mason Massachusetts Institute of Technology Harvard Medical School
David McMullen Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Nicholas Murray University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine
Neil Nadkarni Harvard Medical School Boston University School of Medicine
Erica Nakajima University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Oluwarotimi Okunade Yale University School of Medicine Yale University School of Medicine
Brittany O'Neill University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Alexander Parisky Baylor College of Medicine Baylor College of Medicine
Luv Patel Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Jennifer Philip The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
Elizabeth Poli The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
Junsung Rho Harvard Medical School Tufts University School of Medicine
Peter Rozman Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Caitlin Sacha Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Ryan Salinas University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Rita Schlanger Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Marissa Schwartz Harvard Medical School Boston University School of Medicine
Jugal Shah University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Richa Sharma Indiana University School of Medicine Indiana University School of Medicine
Bailey Shen Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University
Yohan Song Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Daniel Sullivan University of Alabama School of Medicine University of Alabama School of Medicine
Matthew Sun University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Swarup Swaminathan Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Anikia Tucker Duke University School of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine
Christine Tung University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Brooks Udelsman Yale University School of Medicine Yale University School of Medicine
Mounica Vallurupalli Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Charles Vasquez Harvard Medical School David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Nermarie Velazquez Gonzalez Rockefeller University Duke University School of Medicine
Nipun Verma Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Weill Cornell Medical College
Keirnan Willett* University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Dylan Wolman Janelia Farm Research Campus Tufts University School of Medicine
Lei Xu Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Nury Yim Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School
*Foundation Fighting Blindness

 

2012 Summer Medical Fellows
Name Fellowship Institution School
Bilal Ahmed Harvard Medical School University at Buffalo, State University of New York School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Maria Bacalao Harvard Medical School University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School
Evan Bander Weill Cornell Medical College Weill Cornell Medical College
James Bates Jackson Laboratory University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Geetha Bhagavatula University of California-San Francisco George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Steven Blum David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Laura Bradley Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine
Evan Caplan Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Athena Christakos University of California-San Francisco University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School
Katharine Collier Harvard Medical School Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health
Colin Dunn Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Daniel Eichberg Massachusetts Institute of Technology University of Maryland School of Medicine
John Gerstenberger University of California-San Francisco University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Patrick Kaszubski New York University School of Medicine New York University School of Medicine
Jessica Lee University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Pamela Lee California Institute of Technology University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Teresa Lee University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School
Nila Manandhar University of California-San Francisco University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine
Benjamin Resio Harvard Medical School Dartmouth Medical School
Amanda Samuels Boston University University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Apiradee Sanglimsuwan Harvard Medical School Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Rima Shah University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School
Justin Shinn Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine University of Washington School of Medicine
Lindsey Van Sambeek California Institute of Technology Saint Louis University School of Medicine
Rachel Waller Massachusetts Institute of Technology University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine
John Watson Columbia University Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine
Jonathan Weyhenmeyer Salk Institute for Biological Studies Indiana University School of Medicine

 

For More Information

Robert Gutnikoff
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