Sean Johnson, Charles Masaki (PGY3), Rochele Brown: summer 2019.
Summer URM Research ProgramIn 2019, we received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to provide a stipend for two medical students from underrepresented in medicine minority backgrounds while they engage in a summer research project within our R25-funded Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) in Psychiatry. Our patients are diverse in many ways and successful psychiatric care requires clinical training that fosters cultural humility in trainees. By extension, diversity of physician-scientists emboldens psychiatric research. However, the number of under-represented minorities—those of minority racial and ethnic backgrounds, and those who are otherly abled—who dedicate themselves to psychiatric research has been limited. Our program’s primary goal is to provide exposure to research prior to entering residency with careful and dedicated mentorship. The translational/clinical psychiatry research experience is meant to last 6-8 weeks and is supplemented by weekly discussion or one on one meetings on related topics related to working in the field, policy, the experience in psychiatry/research, and engagement with the research program. Research faculty spanning Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard University provide expertise in the areas of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience. This permits investigators and their trainees to pursue mechanistic understandings of mental illness and to advance our collective knowledge of psychiatric treatment and delivery of treatment for those in need. Medical students who participate in this program will actively engage with these investigators in this dynamic field.
- Mentored experience in psychiatric clinical or translational research. In 2019, the NIMH trainees spearheaded rich research projects. One student was based at MGH and worked on a clinical psychological intervention for black adolescent males with justice system involvement. The second student was based at McLean for a human translational study of stress and genetic markers of PTSD. In addition to clinical research skills of data collection, analysis, and database, the students learned the skills of literature search and review, engaged in a brief (5min) presentation to showcase these skills, and received feedback on their work.
- Research, education, and policy mentorship. A discussion group and/or one on one meetings with invited residents and faculty on different aspects of psychiatry, community, diversity, inclusion experience to gain exposure to various career trajectories and network within the broad field of psychiatric research.
- Engagement with PSTP community of research psychiatrists in training. Students were able to attend program dinners (monthly), with the potential to shadow and meet with more residents/researchers in program. These connections provide an opportunity to advance their careers, strengthening their applications into this and other research tracks in psychiatry around the country.
Medical science has always fascinated me, and since entering medical school I have been drawn to the idea of becoming a physician scientist. My path to medicine being somewhat non-traditional, however, I found that I didn’t have the exposure or experience to really know how research could fit into my career. I didn’t know what role I wanted it to play in my professional life. The Physician Scientist Training Program in Psychiatry (PSTP) summer research program for URM medical students allowed me to take part in a specific project that interested me and explore the world of psychiatric medical research in a meaningful way. My specific role was within a combined team of implementation scientists and clinical researchers creating a paraprofessional-delivered CBT-based skills curriculum to community youth. From gathering interview data, to qualitative coding analysis, to stakeholder analysis, to preparing for the IRB, I was able to take part in many aspects of the research process. Dispersed throughout the summer were opportunities to read psychiatric research literature of my choosing, both directly related to my team and of my own interest. Often, I was able to meet with individuals in the Harvard/Partners research community to discuss their path to research and current interests.
The combination of learning by taking part in an ongoing research project, gaining a deeper understanding of literature review, and speaking with physician scientists in a variety of subspecialties made my experience incredibly productive in orienting me to the research world. Not only did I learn and practice valuable research skills, but I have a much clearer idea about how I want to pursue research in the future. I am look forward to participating in more research, and am even considering a research year prior to graduation from medical school. I am particularly interested in the intersection of bench and clinical research, so I anticipate that my next project will be in the realm of translational research.
Rochele Brown, MS1, Boston University Medical School, Class of 2022
Sean Johnson, MS1, Morehouse College, Class of 2022