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Topics: Clinical & Translational Research, Diversity & Inclusion, Education & Training, Mentoring

Outside the Lab, Inside Harvard

Medical school students virtually participate in annual summer c/t research internship program.

Summer of 2020 VRIP mentors and Harvard Catalyst Diversity & Inclusion program staff meet via Zoom for first virtual seminar.
VRIP interns attend their first virtual seminar meeting with Laura Contreras-Ruiz of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Jessica St. Louis of Harvard Catalyst's Diversity Inclusion program.

Our annual Visiting Research Internship Program has embarked on a new virtual format. Every year, medical school students from across the U.S. come to Boston for a summer of clinical and translational research in Harvard labs through the Visiting Research Internship Program (VRIP), offered by the Harvard Catalyst Diversity Inclusion program.

This summer’s interns will be busy conducting research, meeting with mentors, and networking, but they won’t be seen on the Harvard Medical School campus or in the laboratories. Instead, you’ll find them in their homes participating by video conference and virtual meetings.

A mentored internship program for first- and second-year medical students, VRIP is designed to foster interest in health-related careers, particularly in clinical/translational (c/t) research. The program works to expose underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students to clinical and translational research, and ultimately, enhance diversity in the clinical and translational science workforce. The structure and content of the program is modeled after Harvard Catalyst’s Fundamentals of Clinical and Translational (FaCToR) course.

This year’s interns are currently in medical programs at universities across the United States, from Tennessee to New York. Students have been matched with mentors and laboratories at Harvard Medical School (HMS), affiliated hospitals, and partner institutions. This year’s projects will center around research students can complete outside the lab, including data analysis, manuscript writing, and survey studies. Three of this year’s interns will have the opportunity to conduct COVID-related research.

Despite the distance, this year’s program includes numerous opportunities for students via virtual events, including weekly socials and a mentoring reception with HMS faculty members. Students will also participate in weekly seminars with HMS faculty on topics including epidemiology, COVID-19, and racial and ethnic health disparities. Additionally, students have the option of taking the online courses FaCToR, Introduction to Mixed Methods Research, and Strategies for Successful Grant Writing.

This year’s mentors, who are based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Joslin Diabetes Center will play a key role throughout the summer as they introduce and guide VRIP interns through their unique research projects. In the end, students will complete an abstract for the 2021 New England Science Symposium and give an oral presentation at a virtual closing ceremony, open to the public, July 23.

2020 VRIP Interns:

Ayushi Aggarwal, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Mentor: Adriana Panayi, MB,ChB, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
*COVID-related research

Jaquantey Bowens, Indiana University School of Medicine
Mentor: Guillermo Garcia-Cardena, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
*COVID-related research

Baillee Cooper, Tufts University School of Medicine
Mentor: Bo Zhang, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital

Chelsie Poindexter, Meharry Medical College
Mentor: Joshua Joseph, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Victoria Sanchez, Indiana University School of Medicine
Mentor: Alexander Lin, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Michelle Wafo, Albany Medical College
Mentor: Sylvia Rosas, MD, Joslin Diabetes Center
*COVID-related research

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