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 Charles Masaki or Robert Fenster. Additional resources at MGH CDI visiting clerkship and McLean Hospital Diversity and Inclusion.  

Past Summer URM Fellows

Daniella Colombo, MD Candidate 2024, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Daniella Colombo (2021)

I was inspired to pursue a career in medicine in part by a drive to tackle health disparities arising from biological consequences of social inequities. One specific interest of mine lies in the field of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood, and their impact on health outcomes later in life. As an intern with the Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP), I was matched with Dr. Margarita Alegria’s Disparities Research Unit (DRU). Upon meeting for the first time with my mentor, Dr. Kiara Alvarez, and sharing a bit about my interests, I was stunned to see her set me right up on a project exploring ACEs and substance use in adolescence. I had the opportunity to explore an expanded set of ACEs (ACE-Es) that potentially better captures the experiences of low-income individuals of color from urban environments, as the original ACEs study was conducted on a predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class group of participants. Through my participation in the PSTP, I gained skills that will better position me for a career as a physician-researcher. In just one short summer, with the guidance of my mentors at the DRU, I worked on conducting a literature review, writing a paper, preparing data for analysis, drafting an IRB application, and presenting my research at the end of the summer. I continue to work on it today, with the goal of disseminating this work in a poster presentation and/or publication. After this summer in the PSTP, I now have the confidence to more independently pursue projects and research I believe to be important and am equipped with the skills to do so. On the less technical side, I had the invaluable opportunity to connect with and learn from psychiatrists, as they shared insights about the field, their path, and all the forms a career in psychiatry can take. I got the chance to sit in on grand rounds and other discussions that allowed me to tap into exciting advances and get a feel for the biggest challenges facing the field of psychiatry today. Thanks to the PSTP and my fantastic mentors this summer, my interest in psychiatry has further deepened and nuance has been added to my understanding of what is possible in a career in this field.

Jovaun Mason, MD Candidate 2024, Morehouse School of Medicine

Jovaun Mason (2021)

Eliminating healthcare disparities in underserved communities was what drove me into pursuing a career in medicine. Being a first generation college student made achieving my goal challenging at times since I did not have the guidance or connections that my peers had because of their privileges. I had to figure everything out alone and create my own path to medical school. The Physician Scientist Training Program in Psychiatry (PSTP) allowed me to network with other medical students and physicians who were in a similar position as me before starting college and medical school. I was able to receive mentorship on how to navigate the medical field as an URM. During my time with PSTP, I had the opportunity to work on a meta-analysis with Dr. Evins for the Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health. The purpose of our project was to evaluate benefits and harms of different treatment for nicotine dependence in people with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective, and bipolar disorder. My work mainly consisted of extracting data from various scientific articles to include in the meta-analysis. Overall, this experience allowed me to become more knowledgeable on the methods needed to produce a report that is both scientifically accurate and accepted by the field. PSTP was truly an eye opening experience for me. It showed me how diverse the psychiatry field really is. During our professional development sessions I learned about the different subspecialties within the psychiatry field such as cross-cultural psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, consultant liaison and correctional psychiatry just to name a few. I also learned the importance of mentorship and networking in the medical field. My goal once I become a physician is to de-stigmatize mental health in underserved communities so that they can get the best possible treatment that is tailored to their needs. After completing PSTP, I can say that I now have the tools necessary to accomplish my goal.

Tonya Armes, MD Candidate 2024, The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences

Tonya Armes (2021)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP). The experience and knowledge I gained through the program has been very beneficial throughout my medical training thus far. This past summer I had the opportunity to work in Dr. Silveri’s Lab: Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health. I worked closely with Dr. Silveri and Dr. Sneider on a project in adolescent psychiatry. We aimed to characterize sex differences in the emergence of depressive symptoms during adolescence. I learned how to complete a literature search and review to familiarize myself with the topic. With both Dr. Sneider and Dr. Silveri’s guidance, I obtained the skills needed and learned the process of writing a manuscript. I came into medical school with a strong interest in pediatrics. I have continued to explore specialties that would allow me to provide care and advocate for the youth. The PSTP introduced me to many fields in psychiatry including child and adolescent psychiatry. Through this program I learned ways in which physicians can incorporate research into their practice. In addition to completing research, I had the privilege of listening to many guest speakers and physicians share knowledge and personal experiences in their respective fields. I learned strategies for approaching the upcoming years of medical school, and how mentorship can strengthen my journey to becoming a physician. I greatly appreciate everyone involved in the program. I developed many skills and gained invaluable experiences that will continue to shape me into a dedicated and competent physician.

 Anisha Lewis, MS2, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Anisha Lewis (2020)

Inequality, in many forms, drove my interest in medicine. As a future physician and an advocate for my community, I aspire to eliminate barriers to health care in order to achieve health equity. It was important for me to seek out opportunities to grow into a physician who is a scientist, a provider, and an advocate for the community. The Physician Scientist Training Program in Psychiatry (PSTP) summer research program for URM medical students gave me the opportunity to work virtually in a research laboratory on a project of interest and gain insight into various subspecialties of psychiatry. My role in my laboratory was to examine brain development in transgender and gender diverse youth. Through this program, I was able to take part in many aspects of the research process including systematic literature review, grant writing, and data analysis. Outside of the lab, I had the privilege of engaging with members of the Harvard/Partners research community to discuss their interests and how they were able to incorporate their passions into their professions. I was able to speak with numerous physicians from diverse backgrounds about their experiences in different specialties of psychiatry. I learned how to create meaningful and long-term mentorship relationships that I hope to maintain throughout my career. The combination of mentored research, career mentorship, and community networking provided me with a unique opportunity to explore my interests and potential career paths in psychiatry. I look forward to incorporating more research into my career with the help of my invaluable mentors and supportive network created this summer.

 Lena Faisel, MS1, University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, Class of 2023

Lena Faisel (2020)

The Physician Scientist Training Program in Psychiatry (PSTP) has been an invaluable experience. This summer program allowed me to connect with like-minded peers and further immerse myself into the field of Psychiatry and all that it entails. This summer, I had the privilege of working in Dr. Yakeel Quiroz’s lab as part of the Multicultural Alzheimer’s Prevention Program and was mentored by both Dr. Yakeel Quiroz and Dr. Jennifer Gatchel. My specific project explored the associations between Neurofilament Light Protein (NfL), cognition and depressive symptoms in autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s Disease. This culminated into an accepted abstract and presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020. When not working directly on the project, I immersed myself in the McLean/MGH/Partners community albeit virtually. This included attending and engaging in multiple weekly speaker sessions held by both the PSPT program as well as MGH as a collective. This program also confirmed to me the importance of mentorship and how critical it is in all aspects of life, whether personally or professionally. Whether it was being mentored in the lab, or as part of the program by either the program directors or the resident mentors, it was not lost on me the impact that these relationships had on my development as a future physician scientist. I cannot wait to pay this forward to future trainees once given the opportunity. I know that the connections and network I had the great fortune to build and sustain will only help to propel my advancement as a medical student, and one day a practicing physician.

 Aldwin Soumare M.S., OMS-IV, PCOM-Georgia, Class of 2022

Aldwin Soumare (2020)

As a native of the South Bronx where health disparities abound, it has been a calling to become a physician who is committed to changing the statistics and to cultivating positive change. Medicine has created a platform to create a model of success and accomplishment. There is nothing more satisfying than an encounter with those on my “block” who are supportive of my dreams. It’s a constant reminder that my potential impact lies beyond me as an individual. Countless individuals have confided in me that watching my journey in becoming a physician inspires them to manifest their own dreams. This dream is what I have always envisioned for my life and this program has continued to cultivate that beyond the scope of just the summer program. Although my passions lie in understanding the physiological and psychological basis of the human body, I am also passionate about combatting the issues plaguing the community and  that has helped me become the man I have always aspired to become. The Harvard MGH Physician Scientist Program has helped me channel alternative ways to instill the change I perceive is needed in the world. I believe medicine can be enacted upon in multitude ways: research, mentorship, community engagement and clinical fiduciary. These concepts and values were an integral component to my experience during the summer program. As an example: I learned to meticulously look at literature regarding TMS and how that impacted those with treatment resistant depression. Is psychotherapy a positive adjuvant to TMS or is TMS more effective when performed in a single burst per session vs. multiple bursts within a treatment session? How can psychopharmacotherapy improve the symptoms of those with treatment resistant depression? I learned to ask questions and navigate how to answer them. In our lab meetings, I became exposed to how phototherapy can be useful in many psychiatric illnesses. One of my favorite experiences was learning about different arenas of psychiatry from researchers throughout the world. We had presenters from China, India and the UK. I learned to work in a team dynamic akin to what medicine represents. Last summer was an unforgettable one, during which I learned ideals that I will continue to hold onto as I progress in my professional career. I am forever grateful and indebted to the program and will cherish the experiences that were influential to my Summer 2020 program participation.

 Rochele Brown, MS1, Boston University Medical School, Class of 2022

Rochele Brown (2019)

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.

 Sean Lanier Johnson, MS1, Morehouse School of Medicine, Class of 2022

Sean Johnson (2019)

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.
Applications are now open for our 2022 Summer URM Research Program! We anticipate an in-person research experience for the 2022 summer. If you are interested, please submit a current CV and letter of interest to Charles Masaki, M.B.Ch.B., D.Phil, by January 7, 2022. We will notify successful applicants in January 2022.