Summary

Sixty-six exceptional medical and veterinary students are embarking on a year of research with support from HHMI.

Medical Fellows’ dinner and discussion with HHMI Investigator and Nobel Laureate Robert Lefkowitz

This summer, 66 exceptional medical and veterinary students from schools throughout the United States will begin a year of biomedical research with fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The students will be supported through HHMI’s Medical Research Fellows Program, which aims to develop the next generation of physician-scientists.

Fifty-two of the fellows are first-time recipients of the fellowship. Fourteen are second-year fellows, who will extend their fellowship and continue their research. This is the highest number of returning fellows in the history of the program.

The program offers medical, dental, and veterinary students the opportunity to take a year away from their training to immerse themselves in a mentored, laboratory-based research project that they have proposed. Each fellow receives $43,000 in grant support.

“The Medical Research Fellows Program is a unique opportunity for students to explore the intersection of science and medicine firsthand in a rigorous and supportive environment. Our hope is that the experience will ignite students’ passion for research and encourage them to pursue careers as physician-scientists,” says David Asai, HHMI’s senior director for science education.

HHMI partners with outside organizations to expand the reach of the program. This year, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the American Society of Human Genetics, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Parkinson’s Foundation will provide support for six Medical Research Fellows (Med Fellows). Together, HHMI and its partners invest more than $3 million in the program each year.

The Med Fellows, who come from 38 schools throughout the United States, chose their mentors and worked with them to propose a potentially high-impact research project when they applied to the program. Fellows can conduct basic, translational, or applied biomedical research at any academic or nonprofit research institution in the United States, with the exception of government agencies. As a group, they will work in the laboratories of biomedical scientists at 28 institutions around the country. Thirteen fellows will carry out their research in the labs of HHMI scientists.

Many program participants not only integrate research into their future careers in medicine but also commit to mentoring the next generation of physician-scientists. This year, 10 Med Fellows will be mentored by alumni of the program, which has supported more than 1,800 students since it began in 1989.

All HHMI Med Fellows have prior experience with bench research, but the year-long fellowship offers new opportunities to develop skills and explore scientific interests more deeply.

Anna Cheng, a student at the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine, says her fellowship has given her the opportunity to think more about how her research fits into the context of other work in the field. Working in the laboratory of HHMI Investigator David Pellman at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Cheng is investigating what causes certain nuclear and chromosomal abnormalities that can compromise cells’ genomic integrity ­– setting them up for tumor development. She says the experience has been both difficult and rewarding and has chosen to extend her fellowship for a second year. When she returns to medical school, Cheng says she will consider a specialty in pediatric oncology ­– a field with ample opportunities to integrate research into her clinical practice. “I’m so glad I applied to this program,” she says. “I think it’s life-changing.”

Alyssa Flores, a student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, will continue her research in Nicholas Leeper’s laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine as a second-year fellow. “As we decide to pursue medicine, we fall in love with the science. Understandably, as we progress through training, there is less emphasis on basic science,” says Flores, who has used her fellowship to investigate novel therapies for cardiovascular disease. “Having a year to return to that appreciation has been very special for me. It’s been key to developing a solid foundation of training that I know will help me down the line toward becoming an independent investigator.”

Jasper Chen, a student at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, has valued the opportunity to dig into cancer genetics research as a Med Fellow and says the program’s benefits extend beyond the lab. Med Fellows become part of a supportive community that Chen says has helped him think about how to model his future career. Throughout the year, Med Fellows participate in seminars and discuss careers with alumni of the program, early career faculty, and senior investigators. “Meeting different physician-scientists and finding out about their career paths is a helpful part of the program,” he says. “It’s interesting to see how, with just an MD background, they were able to accomplish so much.”

Like Cheng and Flores, Chen has chosen to extend his fellowship for a second year. During his first year working in the laboratory of cancer biologist Ronald DePinho at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Chen uncovered a particular RNA molecule’s role in sustaining certain cancer cells. Now, he’s exploring exactly how that RNA works. “The ongoing support of this fellowship has really allowed me to focus all my energy on taking my project where it needs to go,” he says.

2018–2019 Medical Research Fellows

Name Fellowship Insitution School

Sarah Abdallah
Funder: American Society of Human Genetics

Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Uday Agrawal Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Ahmed Ali Massachusetts Institute of Technology Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine
Oriyomi Alimi Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Razina Aziz-Bose Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Claire Baniel University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Erik Bao Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Adip Bhargav Mayo Clinic - Jacksonville Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
Danilea Carmona Matos University of Alabama School of Medicine San Juan Bautista School of Medicine
Warren Chan Stanford University School of Medicine Baylor College of Medicine
Aaron Cheng Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Corey Cheung Stanford University School of Medicine University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
Stephanie Chou Harvard Medical School California Northstate University College of Medicine
Shaleeka Cornelius Stanford University School of Medicine Meharry Medical College School of Medicine
Sara Drescher Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center University of Washington School of Medicine
Ritika Dutta Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine
Arash Fereydooni Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Christopher Funk Emory University School of Medicine Emory University School of Medicine
Margery Gang Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
David Goldblatt University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
Patrick Halliday University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Kathleen Hanlon Harvard Medical School University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix

Sabina Hlavaty
Funder: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Alexander Houck Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine
Julie Hwang Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Min Young Jang Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Jason Karimy Yale School of Medicine Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University
Gerina Kim New York University School of Medicine University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine
Mitali Kini Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Weill Cornell Medicine
Alissa Kleinhenz Duke University School of Medicine University of Michigan Medical School
Aneta Kowalski University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Patrick Lee Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Brooke Liang Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Simbiat Olayiwola Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Meharry Medical College School of Medicine
Tess O'Meara Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Heidi Park Tufts University School of Medicine Tufts University School of Medicine
Evan Patel New York University School of Medicine Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine
Lauren Platt Stanford University School of Medicine University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine
Julie Ramseier Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Tori Riccelli
Funder: Parkinson’s Foundation
Janelia Research Campus Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
Douglas Rioux Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Robert Romano University of Connecticut School of Medicine University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Bryan Ryba University of California, San Diego School of Medicine University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
Angelina Seffens Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Nakul Shah Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Sagar Shah University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth-Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
Sumedh Shah University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine

Kristin Snyder
Funder: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
Cynthia Truong Rockefeller University Baylor College of Medicine

Sean Wang
Funder: Foundation Fighting Blindness

Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Sanam Zarei University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine
Angela Zhu Harvard Medical School University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine

2017–2018 Medical Research Fellows funded for an additional year in the program

Name Fellowship Institution School
Sarah Amalraj Yale School of Medicine Yale School of Medicine
Jessica Briscoe Harvard Medical School Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Jasper Chen University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Anna Cheng Harvard Medical School USF Health Morsani College of Medicine
Bennet Cho Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Alyssa Flores Stanford University School of Medicine Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Eva Gillis-Buck University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Charles Hwang University of Michigan Medical School University of Michigan Medical School
Christopher Itoh Harvard University School of Public Health University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
Christopher Jackson Yale School of Medicine Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Audrey Kindsfather University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Connor Liu Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Monica Pomaville Harvard Medical School Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Marta Stevanovic
Funder: Foundation Fighting Blindness

University of Oxford Emory University School of Medicine

For More Information

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