Here at Pritzker, summer can be just as exciting of a time for inquiry and discovery as the rest of our academic year. From travels abroad to research across campus, our students engage in a variety of projects that augment their standard curriculum. We asked some of them to tell us about their experiences in the Summer Research Program, the Summer Service Partnership, CAMP, and on a Global Health Scholarship travel grant.
By Laura Glick, MS2
The Summer Research Program (SRP) provides an opportunity for students to conduct research following their first year of medical school. During the spring of first year, the SRP leadership team compiles a booklet of possible projects and mentors, and students can decide to contact those mentors or develop a project with another faculty member. After deciding on a mentor and a project, students begin the eleven-week research period at the culmination of their first year. In addition to working on a project, students are required to participate in a weekly cluster group session to discuss topics ranging from writing a manuscript to effectively presenting data. SRP ends with a two-day long Summer Research Forum, where students have the opportunity to present their projects to classmates, mentors and faculty members.
SRP is a popular option for first year medical students, with 67 students and 52 mentors participating this year. Susanna Howard, MS19, is thankful for her experience: “SRP gave me the opportunity to research a topic I’ve always been interested in but had not had the time or resources to pursue.” Susanna chose to research the benefits of a peer-led nutrition and diabetes project at a farmers’ market in the South Side of Chicago. Other projects this year included research in basic science, clinical science, medical education, global health, community health, and ethics. The dedication that the SRP leadership team has to the program ensures that students find a supportive mentor and a project that closely matches their interests.
By Emily Foltz, MS2
Medical school offers an endless array of opportunities to learn how to care for the health of others and how to take care of patients. The term evokes ideas of microscopes, ever-scrolling drug lists, and white coats. Pritzker’s Summer Service Partnership added a vital component to my medical education often not included in the traditional picture painted: learning to care well for the community. Three Pritzker students (MS2s Julia Baird, Emily Foltz, and Claudia Ma) partnered with students from University of Chicago’s School of Social Administration and the College to serve as mentors to local high school youth. Together, teams of six were assigned to work in one of four South Side Neighborhoods (Washington Park, South Chicago, Woodlawn, and Greater Grand Crossing). We were partnered with one local organization as a host site which was a window into the life of the neighborhood. Working alongside our local experts, we explored the neighborhoods meeting community members, formed working partnerships with organizations of all shapes and sizes, and developed leadership skills within our teams. Our collective goals were to 1) serve our community through service projects and 2) design and execute a six-week service project spearheaded by our high school youth leaders to address a facet of health in our community. Thus, SSP allowed us to not only learn from experts, but to dig in and start affecting community health change immediately with the help of our team.
In order to support our efforts at improving community health, experts from around Chicago came weekly to share information with the group on important health topics including obesity, sexual health, asthma, advocacy, and much more. While designing a project and learning expert information on population level health concerns is an important part of health intervention, this summer demonstrated the power and value of community relationships and partnerships. The high school youth identified root causes of illness in their neighborhoods in a fraction of the time it took my classmates and I mere months sooner. After spending an afternoon in the neighborhood, we had learned of two or three long-term organization initiatives aimed at addressing the primary concerns of the neighborhood that we could add to instead of having to create interventions with our own aim and of our own design. The relationships and experiences of SSP have taught the importance and technique of forming and cultivating relationships, discovering and nurturing leadership, and the importance of communities and patients as foremost experts in their health. The SSP experience empowered us with knowledge and partnership with the community in which we are learning to become physicians, and I believe this program will make all participants better healthcare providers and advocates in our future careers.
By Michael Okoreeh, GDDTP
The Chicago Academic Medicine Program (CAMP) is a summer pipeline program offered by the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine for underrepresented minorities interested in medicine. CAMP is unique in that the program spans two summers with the same cohort of students, who tend to be first or second year undergraduates from various undergraduate institutions around the country. During their first summer, the students have opportunities to shadow physicians, to participate in professionalism workshops lead by current Pritzker medical students, Monica Vela, MD’93, and many others, and gain skills in secondary research.
This past summer, students returned to campus for eight weeks to engage in full-time research with University of Chicago faculty members from various departments. My role was to assist Dr. Vela in guiding the development of their research projects throughout the summer. We conducted weekly meetings to hear updates on each individual’s projects as well as discuss various aspects of the research methodology. For instance, we reviewed how to identify a suitable research question, propose a hypothesis, and design experiments. The summer concluded with a research symposium where the students presented their research in front of faculty members and admissions committee members from various institutions. For many of the students, this was their first exposure to basic or clinical research, but they each made tremendous progress and many of them contributed work that will lead to publications. This experience will be a highlight of my time here at Pritzker because during college, I participated in a Pritzker summer research program and that experience was influential in my choice to purse a MD/PhD degree. It was an absolute joy to have things come “full circle” and for me to have the chance to inspire others to include biomedical research in their future careers.
By Olga Sinyavskaya, MS2
For two weeks, I volunteered and shadowed at the Republic Center on Prevention and Control of AIDS in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was interested in this opportunity in order to further pursue the intersection of Russian language, international medicine, and infectious disease. Before arriving, I generally understood the government-funded system of free treatment for HIV and opportunistic infections from my previous coursework. However, I saw first-hand how the impressive statistics were not reflected positively by the experiences of people living with HIV. For example, I learned about the patients’ inability to choose or change their treatment regime, no matter the negative side effects experienced. Additionally, I observed that some patients felt hopelessness regarding the stagnant and out-of-date treatment regimes. One patient even said to me, “People with HIV in Kazakhstan don’t live; they survive”.
At the same time, I was impressed by the comprehensive healthcare services available at the AIDS center. As a medical student, I gained a nuanced perspective of the role of medicine in collaborating with other health professionals, such as dentists, gynecologists, psychologists, and case managers, who are essential to the patient experience. From the extensive amount of time I spent shadowing the head psychologist, I observed her important role in calming the patient after diagnosis and consulting the patient to ensure compliance with the treatment regime. I have no doubt that my ability to practice medicine in the US is now enriched by my comprehension of medicine in this context and development of valuable soft skills.
My experience, which was made possible by a Global Health Scholarship, is a great example of how medical students can pursue international experiences with full support from Pritzker and the Center for Global Health.