Medical Student Research Exposure Via a Series of Modular Research Programs

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Publication Title

Journal of Investigative Medicine

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Background The falling percentage of doctors of medicine applying for National Institute of Health-funded research grants is 1 indicator that physician-scientists are a disappearing breed. This is occurring at a time when increased translational, disease-oriented, patient-oriented, and clinical research are national goals. One of the keys to providing sufficient numbers of physician-scientists to support this goal is the active targeting of medical students. We hypothesize that an improved research program infrastructure and responsiveness to changing student needs will increase student participation in research-oriented electives.

Methods We have developed a student research program consisting of 2 Students Interested in Research noncredit electives (lecture and laboratory based), summer fellowships, support for year-out fellowships, and a Distinction in Research program that spans undergraduate medical education. Student participation and short-term research outcomes from fall 2004 through spring 2008 are analyzed to examine program efficacy.

Results Students involved in the early parts of the program initially experienced higher application and success rates for summer funding opportunities, but as the program has matured, these rates have fallen in line with the class average. Independently, students participating in later portions of the program increasingly submit or publish a first author paper and have taken a year off for research during medical school. Overlap of participation in the programs is generally smaller than expected.

Conclusion Although structured programs can provide step-wise research experiences of increasing intensity, students may not experience a training pipeline in which each stage relies on those before and after, and instead may sample an a la carte selection of research-based enrichment opportunities.