The Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) was established in 2010 by students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Emory University, and Vanderbilt University Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs). The three programs have co-hosted the symposium for three years with the location rotating among Birmingham (2010), Atlanta (2011), and Nashville (2012). The objective of the symposium is to encourage a collaborative and interdisciplinary educational environment within the Southeast region of the United States. This fully student-organized symposium seeks to foster connections between the MD/PhD students at multiple institutions across the Southeast, exposing students to trends, challenges, and opportunities inherent in careers of academic physicians. The program of each SEMSS has included three keynote speaker presentations, multiple topic-specific breakout sessions, MSTP student research poster sessions, and social events. The breakout sessions are divided into sessions of interest to MD/PhD students and undergraduates. The meetings have spanned two days, with content starting in the early afternoon on a Saturday and ending in the early afternoon on Sunday. The target audience for the SEMSS is MD/PhD students in training programs in the southeast and MD students and undergraduate students at southeastern institutions who have an interest in future careers as physician-scientists. An additional purpose of this symposium is to expose undergraduate students to physician-scientist trainees and faculty in order to foster excitement about careers in academic medicine and increase the pipeline of future physician-scientists. We think that this additional focus on undergraduate students from the region is critical to our purpose of enhancing the pipeline of students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine (URIM), as according to US News and World Report, nine of the top twenty historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are located in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, or Louisiana.
An emphasis on training and career development of physician-scientists is critical to maintaining and improving the biomedical workforce, as in recent decades the number of physicians who conduct scientific research has been in decline. The Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) will provide a venue to foster connections between and enhance training for MD/PhD students at multiple institutions across the Southeast. In addition, the SEMSS will foster excitement among undergraduate students about careers in academic medicine, with a goal of increasing the pipeline of future physician-scientists.