The Medical Student Research Program of the American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research was instituted in 1991, with the goal of recruiting and training highly qualified medical students for careers as pediatric clinician-scientists. The Program is designed specifically for students seeking research opportunities at institutions other than the medical school they attend. Students spend 2 to 3 months working under the supervision of an experienced scientist in one of the participating laboratories (303 at the present time) conducting research related to pediatrics. Applications are solicited from students at all medical schools in the US and Canada. Underrepresented minority students are encouraged to apply and are recruited specifically, actively, and effectively. Applications are evaluated by a Steering Committee, a final ranking is prepared, and the top-ranked students are matched with their respective mentors and laboratories, as indicated on their applications. The students are paid stipends at rates determined by NIH, to help cover expenses. To date, the program has received 2209 applications, and 732 students have participated or are participating this (2008) year. Ethnic group self-identification was not requested of applicants prior to 1994, but, to date, 411 applicants self-identified as underrepresented minorities (Native American, African-American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander), with 161 of these participating in the Program. Female applicants outnumber male applicants and participants at ratios of 1.8 to 1. By questionnaire, students and research mentors overwhelmingly report that the unique opportunities provided by this Program are strongly positive. The successes of the Program in attracting highly qualified and ethnically and racially diverse medical students and in engaging the contributions of world-class Pediatric scientists as mentors for these students have developed a highly productive and cost-effective mechanism to expose future clinicians to the opportunities and challenges of careers as clinician-scientists. High levels of visibility and recognition have been established among medical educators and medical students, particularly among groups who are underrepresented in research, and among the cadre of research mentors on whom the Program relies. The recruitment and training efforts are designed to ensure that a continuing supply of diverse and highly trained Pediatric clinician scientists is available to continue to advance and improve health care for children. Among Program participants between 1991 and 1996, 36% are in Pediatrics in 2008, and 72% of these are in Academic Pediatrics.
Clinician-scientists are vital to continued progress in biomedical research, because they can apply dual perspectives of clinical medicine and the principles of science and research. The numbers of Pediatric clinician-scientists have dwindled in recent years. The present Program supports medical students interested in Pediatrics to conduct research at institutions other than their own medical schools, under the supervision of highly qualified mentors, to encourage the students to consider careers that include research.
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