The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) has a long history supporting medical student research with a successful and growing research training program that began more than 30 years ago. The NIH has continuously funded the program with an NRSA T35 training grant since 1980. Under the auspices of the T35 short-term training grant, students are given the opportunity to be involved in a research project of their choosing for 12 weeks in the summer following the first year of medical school. Students choose a mentor from any of 19 clinical and 6 basic science departments in the Carver College of Medicine. Nearly 200 faculty mentors with ideas for short term projects are listed on a searchable online database from which students may sort options by department, type of research or by key word. The student is required to submit a proposal, which is competitively reviewed by the Research Committee of the CCOM. Student applications are rank-ordered by the score received and those with the best scores are chosen for the 40 NIH T35 short-term training stipends with another 50 to 60 stipends funded by the CCOM. The program exposes the students to the entire research process, from writing a research proposal, then working with their mentor before submitting their research accomplishments in the form of an abstract and presentation of their research at the Annual Medical Student Research Day. This experience accomplishes several goals. It permits the student to acquire skills such as application of scientific methods, critical evaluation of previous related experimental work, statistical approaches to data analysis, and to gain knowledge and develop skills related to a specific research project while working closely with a faculty sponsor who serves as a role model and mentor. The program has led to a substantial number of student presentations at National Meetings and numerous publications in peer reviewed journals and an increasing interest in the Research Distinction Track, an honors program for CCOM students with a sustained commitment to research. It is hoped the experience will encourage the student to pursue other research opportunities in medical school as well as to consider a academic career that includes biomedical research.
The training fellowship has been instrumental in promoting medical student research at the CCOM over the past 20 years. During the last 4 years, it has introduced 385 medical students to research through faculty mentorship. As a key component of the Iowa Medical Student Research Program, it is the usual first step to the Research Distinction Track, honoring students who participate in research through 4 years in school.
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