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Paul Gazzillo and Mark Berryman, Ph.D
Photographer: Josh Arrmstrong

 

 

Undergraduate summer training in medicine, research

Programs at Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine offer stipends, experience

 

By Richard Heck
July 21, 2009

 

While many college students struggled to find summer work during the economic slowdown, more than two dozen undergraduates earned cash participating in medical research and education programs at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM).

 

The two programs, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) and Summer Scholars, offer medical research opportunities and an intensive introduction to the challenges of medical school, respectively.

 

“These are pipeline programs to medical school,” explained John Schriner, OU-HCOM director of admissions. “They provide insight into medical school, be it biomedical research opportunities or exposure to the medical curriculum and the educational experience here at OU-HCOM.”

 

While the SURF is open to all undergraduate students, the Summer Scholars program is directed to students from underrepresented or educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Schriner said.

 

Schriner explained that both programs have significantly contributed to student diversity at OU-HCOM, where minority students typically comprise 25 percent of each class. This year’s SURF program includes one student from Southeastern Ohio and two first-generation college students. Of the 22 Summer Scholars, 13 are African-American and two come from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

The SURF offers a variety of summer research opportunities for undergraduate students interested in careers in medicine or biomedical research. SURF fellows work in active research laboratories under the guidance of medical faculty members. Program hours are flexible, allowing students to supplement their summer schedules with other educational or work experiences.

 

This summer’s four SURF fellows conduct research in fields such as microanatomy, molecular biology and pathology. One SURF fellow is currently in Ecuador, conducting research with OU-HCOM’s Tropical Disease Institute.

“I think it is an absolutely great opportunity,” said Paul Gazzillo, a SURF fellow and Ohio University senior studying microbiology. Gazzillo said the opportunity to interview for admission to OU-HCOM was an attractive benefit of the program.

Selection to SURF is based on academic records and the appropriateness of each applicant’s scientific interests. Students about to begin their senior year of college studies are preferred, but promising juniors and recent graduates are considered.

“There is no opportunity for undergraduate research at my school,” said Jeffrey Wells, a SURF fellow from Vinton County and a senior at the University of Rio Grande. He is conducting research with Ramiro Malgor, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology. “I’m really impressed with how well-organized the program is, and I’ve seen how important research is to medicine. If you are interested in a career in medicine, this is a great program.”

The SURF program provides room and board, a $600 stipend, and eight tuition-free undergraduate biology credit hours. In addition, program participants who meet minimum requirements have the opportunity to interview for admission to OU-HCOM. Since the program began in 1982, more than 30 percent of SURF fellows enroll at OU-HCOM, Schriner said.

For the Summer Scholars program, up to 25 applicants are selected each year to participate in an intensive introduction to the first-year curriculum at OU-HCOM.  

“I’m able to get first-hand exposure to what medical school will be like and about different studying skills necessary in medicine,” said Yolanda Reed, a Summer Scholar and a recent graduate of Tennessee State University. “It’s a great opportunity, and there are not many opportunities like this.”

 

In addition to medical courses taught by faculty members, graduate students and upper-class medical students, the program provides training in case-based problem-solving and small-group teamwork. Students also participate in clinical experiences and attend workshops on time management and study skills, cultural competency, and research methods. 


“Summer Scholars is very inclusive and designed to be an access point for students considering a medical education,” Schriner said. “Students experience the rigor of a first-year medical education at OU-HCOM and fuel the fire for their medical education.”

 

For Meleisha Edwards, a non-traditional student who graduated from Fisk University in Nashville 10 years ago, the program helped prepare her to apply for medical school.

 

“I’ve always had the dream of going to medical school, and after eight years of work outside of college, this just reinforced it,” Edwards said.

Although participants do not receive academic credit for the program, they receive room and board, a modest stipend, program materials, and travel expenses to and from campus. According to Schriner, 17 of 22 of this year’s participants qualify to be interviewed for possible admission to OU-HCOM for the fall 2010 quarter.

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Last updated: 09/16/2011