The number of physician-scientists on medical school faculties has decreased nearly 25% over the last twenty- five years, and there is a greater need for both physician scientists and Ph.D.'s in gastroenterology research. Early intervention through undergraduate research opportunities (UROs) increases interest in science-related careers, and quality mentorship is critical for the development of young investigators and essential to attract more women and underrepresented minorities into science. To address these needs, in 2001 we established the Undergraduate Student Scholars Program (USSP), an innovative URO at the University of Pennsylvania which is closely linked to our NIH/NIDDK P30 Digestive Diseases Center (referred to by us as the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases). Since the USSP is closely linked to the Center, USSP participants have access to all of the Center's superb resources and faculty. The USSP received initial funding through an R25 Education Projects (now Program) Grant from the NIDDK in 2004, and this was successfully renewed in 2009. The cornerstone of the USSP is an intensive laboratory-based research experience that entails close interaction with and mentorship by a training program faculty member. This laboratory work is supplemented by a comprehensive educational curriculum, which includes seminars by program faculty on topics in biomedical research, ethics, and laboratory safety, and a focused student research symposium in which students interact with keynote speakers who are international leaders in biomedical research. Over the current funding period, we have successfully trained 52 students (a total of 114 since 2004) from leading colleges and universities throughout the country, with increasing recruitment and continued mentorship of women and underrepresented minority students. Following completion of the program, most USSP participants pursue additional biomedical research training, including through M.D., Ph.D., and M.D.-Ph.D. programs at leading institutions. The USSP tracks the performance and outcomes of students through longitudinal data and questionnaires and is guided by a multi-disciplinary and experienced Internal Advisory Board. The program also works closely with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The overarching interrelated specific aims of the USSP are two- fold: 1. To foster a strong interest among talented undergraduates in biomedical research with a focus on digestive, pancreatic, and liver research~ and 2. To establish durable mentoring relationships between talented undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in biomedical research and supportive faculty mentors. In aggregate, this innovative URO provides the superb faculty, exceptional scientific resources, and exciting intellectual environment for trainees to expand their knowledge and interest in biomedical research. The key outcome of the USSP is to motivate trainees to pursue careers in biomedical research with a focus on digestive, pancreatic, and liver related research.

Public Health Relevance

The number of physician-scientists on medical school faculties has decreased nearly 25% over the last twenty- five years, and there is a greater need for both physician scientists and Ph.D.'s in gastroenterology research. Early intervention through undergraduate research opportunities (UROs) increases interest in science-related careers, and in 2001, we established an innovative URO at the University of Pennsylvania, the Undergraduate Student Scholars Program (USSP). Since the USSP is closely linked to our NIH/NIDDK P30 Digestive Diseases Center (referred to by us as the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases), USSP participants can access the Center's superb resources and faculty. The USSP has successfully trained more than 100 students, most of whom have pursued additional biomedical research, including through medical and graduate training programs. Overall, the USSP provides the superb faculty, scientific resources, and intellectual environment for trainees to expand their knowledge and interest in biomedical research, with a focus on digestive, pancreatic, and liver related research.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Education Projects (R25)
Project #
2R25DK066028-11
Application #
8740644
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDK1)
Program Officer
Podskalny, Judith M,
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
11
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Pennsylvania
Department
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
City
Philadelphia
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
19104
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