March 15, 2022 — For 10 weeks each summer, students at the University of Florida College of Medicine have the chance to participate in the Medical Student Research Program, a College of Medicine and National Institutes of Health-funded initiative that gives class credit, research experience and opportunities to present in front of judges to medical students entering their second year.
Participants can choose from a wide variety of scholarly activities, including traditional biomedical research with basic science, clinical research, bioethics, business or medical education work as some examples, according to Saleem Islam, M.D., M.P.H., a professor and division chief of pediatric surgery and co-director of the Medical Student Research Program. Scott Berceli, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of surgery and vice chair of research for the department of surgery, is the other program co-director.
“The ultimate purpose of this endeavor,” Islam said, “is to create a desire in our medical students that when they become doctors, a proportion of them — even if it’s a small proportion — choose to become physician-scientists and revolutionize the way we treat patients in the future.”
According to Islam, the program has grown from about a quarter of medical students joining in 2007 to upward of 80% participating in 2022. The students are expected to present their work each February, typically at the College of Medicine Research Day. They also compete for recognition and monetary prizes, ranging from the $1,000 Alpha Omega Alpha award for first place to $100 honorable mentions.
“Every year, the quality of research that our students are doing just continues to go higher and higher,” Islam said. “We set new bars for them, and they look at that bar and go, ‘OK, I see that,’ and then they vault over it. It’s really gratifying to see.”
Judging and presentations were held over Zoom in 2021 and 2022, and the following 28 students received awards and honorable mentions in an online celebration held March 3.