The objectives of the Summer Research Training in Aging for Medical Students (MSTAR) program are to: 1) provide a culturally diverse cadre of medical students with a stimulating 8 week summer experience in geriatric and gerontological research using didactic, clinical and research training; 2) measure the productivity of the participating medical students using the number of abstracts, presentations and publications as metrics; and 3) ascertain the impact of the program on the students' career using follow up surveys of the participants. The principal rationale for the training program is to increase the workforce of physicians entering careers in aging related research from culturally diverse backgrounds. Over the next three decades, the U.S. population of adults age 65 and older is expected to double from 35 million to 70 million. Those over age 85, will constitute the fastest growing segment of the population. In addition, the percentage comprised of minority populations will increase from 20 to 42%. Attracting medical students who represent this ethnic and cultural change and who will pursue careers in aging research is supported by societal mandate as articulated in the 2008 Institute of Medicine report Retooling for an Aging America. The MSTAR program at Johns Hopkins is designed to provide 18 students, after completion of the first year of medical school, with an 8 week research experience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and the Center on Aging and Health, and the National Institute on Aging. Training targets knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to pursue stage appropriate research by allowing students to perform mentored research that is supplemented by didactic methods (e.g., lectures, seminars, etc.) in epidemiology, biostatistics, hypothesis generation and testing, responsible conduct of research, and career development. Mentored research experiences are designed to be completed during the summer and result in a peer-reviewed abstract presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society and other suitable peer-reviewed scholarly papers. Clinical experiences are designed to demonstrate the relevance of the research to the needs of an aging population, and to impart excitement about a career in aging research.
While the U.S. population of adults age 65 and over is predicted to double from 35 million in 2000 to 70 million by 2030, the number of physicians with training in aging research is declining. Similarly, the proportion of physicians from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds entering careers in aging research is insufficient to meet society's needs. A program that stimulates and excites the interest of a cadre of culturally and ethnically diverse medical students to choose careers in aging research is critically needed.
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