Program expansion increases summer research opportunities for MS1s

October 13, 2016

Expansion in opportunities gives MS1 students more options for summer research. | Photo By Tim Yates

First-year medical students at Indiana University School of Medicine will have more opportunities to engage in research and scholarly activities next summer thanks to an expansion of programs under the Medical Student Research and Scholarly Opportunities (MSRSO) initiative. 

Traditionally, the Student Research Program in Academic Medicine (SRPinAM) has matched students with research laboratories, and while the number of available slots has been increased for that program, the recent expansion also identifies three additional academic medicine “tracks”: Clinical, Community, and Health Research Outcomes.

While the Research Track will continue to involve traditional laboratory research through the SRPinAM and other mechanisms, students in the Clinical Track will be exposed to hospital settings with experiences in clinical shadowing and patient care. Community Track students will observe and participate in medical delivery to rural areas, local clinics or work with the network of community social service agencies. In collaboration with the CTSI Community Health Engagement Program and Indiana Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), the number of available spots in this track will increase from 12 to more than 15. The new Health Research Outcomes Track will involve studying the integration of evidence-based interventions into practice settings, including the potential for datamining and bioinformatics. Working with the Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, and the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, at least 10 spots will be made available to the first cohort of students in this track.

Student input played a key role in the decision to expand summer options, said Peter Nalin, MD, FAAFP, executive associate dean for educational affairs. “The variety of opportunities very early in the medical school experience supports career exploration, and fosters collaboration and networking with faculty across various disciplines in the school.”

For some medical students, summer programs have served as a launching pad for a career as a physician scientist, explained Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, executive associate dean for research affairs. “The four tracks provide students with a wider range of scholarly opportunities over the summer and include a stipend. The school’s goal is that every medical student will have the chance to engage in a research or scholarly experience, recognizing that clinical practice itself is rooted in research and maintained through continuous scholarship and education.”

At the termination of the program, all participating students submit a scholarly abstract summarizing their research findings or clinical experience. Furthermore, to encourage and foster interest in academic medicine, students have an opportunity to present their experience and research results in a public setting; for example, the SRPinAM program offers a Poster Presentation Competition for all participants and selects finalists to present at an Oral Presentation Competition. In the 2016 edition of the oral competition, 11 of the 20 finalists received awards for their presentations.

Applications for the various MSRSO programs are posted in the fall, with deadlines generally in January or February for the following summer. Depending on the nature of the program, the duration of the experience can range from 4 – 10 weeks. First-year medical students are encouraged to discuss their interest with advisors early and begin to engage in the process by November to increase the likelihood of attaining a position of their choice. Students can also contact Anne Nguyen, Program Manager or Jose Espada, Director of Student Financial Services for more information on the opportunities and application process.