Although she’s been doing research and winning science fairs since she was in the seventh grade, this summer was the first time Jessica Greer worked with human samples instead of mice.
Greer, a UF medical student who will enter her second year this fall, is one of 68 medical students from her class dedicating 10 weeks of their summer to work on research projects of their choice.
“It was up to them to find the projects they want to work on,” said Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., the director of the Medical Student Research Program. “Then they are required to submit a three-page proposal explaining why they want to do this research and what role they would play.”
Fifty-eight students are working on projects in Gainesville and 10 students recently returned from Cusco, Peru where they conducted patient-centered research at a free clinic.
For Yooni Yi, who did research in Peru this summer, the experience not only provided her with a broader view of medicine, but it gave her an opportunity to get to know her classmates better.
“It has been an unforgettable experience,” she said. “We learned so much about different aspects of medicine, but more importantly we learned about ourselves and each other. We worked as a team and lived as a team.”
Yi said working on the summer research project was a humbling experience; a “one-of-a-kind” project that gave medical students a chance to observe, learn, do and teach.
“Working in a free clinic exposes you to the poorest people with the least amount of resources,” she explained. “The combination of patient-centered research projects and clinic shadowing gave us exposure to patients like none other.
“We heard their stories and their thoughts,” she continued. “The stories of wives who wanted their husbands to quit drinking, the story of a man who was injured in a car accident and now cannot feed his seven children, the story of the couple who walks eight hours to the clinic to discover that she needs an operation.”
Those are the stories that will stay with Yi forever.
Daniel Witter, a second-year medical student who is working primarily on building a statistical model that will predict driving performance in Parkinson’s disease patients, said he has enjoyed his summer because he’s been exposed to clinical research.
“I have a background in research, but until now have only done basic science ‘bench’ research,” he says.
Witter is working on a manuscript that he will try to publish by the end of August.