Sean Johnson, Charles Masaki (PGY3), Rochele Brown: summer 2019.


Summer URM Research Program

In 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.
  For more information, please contact Nadia Quijije, Rachel Ross or Robert Fenster. Please also see resources at MGH CDI visiting clerkship and view McLean Hospital Diversity and Inclusion.  

Rochele Brown

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

Being in the summer research program of the MGH/McLean Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) gave me the opportunity to explore a field of medicine and research that I was never exposed to previously. Learning how to conduct clinical research alongside some of the most renowned physician scientists in the world was truly amazing. This experience showed me through hard work and dedication, I could possibly pursue a similar path as a physician researcher.   Growing up in Los Angeles as a first-generation college student with a passion for science, I really had to carve out which path in medicine I wanted to pursue. Having mentors who come from similar backgrounds guide me in the right direction and reinforce the belief that I can achieve my dreams has been irreplaceable. Being a medical student in the MGH/McLean PSTP summer research program has reinforced the belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.   As part of this program, I was able to conduct clinical research at McLean Hospital’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Institute (OCDI). Working at the #1 psychiatric hospital in the country, I was able to learn data analysis, patient interviewing skills and how to begin solving a scientific question. Observing patients during small group cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) sessions, exposure response prevention therapy (ERP) sessions, psychiatry sessions and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) appointments, I was able to grasp an understanding of the treatment approach at the OCDI. This experience really showed me how medical research is impacting the different treatment approaches to mental illness.   While in Boston I was also able to attend the residency research meetings at Massachusetts General Hospital and meet with different facility members there. These meeting were pivotal in my understanding of the different pathways in medicine. During these meetings, I was able to talk one-on-one with physicians from diverse backgrounds who pursued different interests in psychiatry. Talking with psychiatrist who were primarily researchers, academics, community health advocates, health policy workers and program directors, I was able to gain a better understanding of the field of psychiatry. Hearing about their journeys into medicine and learning why they chose to pursue certain paths in psychiatry was very inspirational and helped me understand which path in medicine I wanted to take.   Sean Lanier Johnson, MS1, Morehouse School of Medicine, Class of 2022