Sixteen Hunter College students aspiring to be physicians and research scientists have begun a summer research internship program for minority students at the College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S). The 10-week program, now in its second year, partners Hunter students with leading Columbia doctors and scientists for an intensive laboratory experience.
The program was created to address the urgent need for training and mentoring opportunities that encourage and support minority students interested in careers in science and medicine. The students will be offered one-on-one training in the areas of design and analysis of experiments, the preparation of reports on the results, and research ethics. The program will culminate in the presentations by students of their findings to the medical school faculty and others.
The program was co-founded by Andrew Marks, chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at P&S, and Barbara Thorsen, grant administrator of Hunter's Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS-RISE) program. They designed the program to provide hands-on training for the students, as well as personal support to help them realize their goals of entering graduate programs in medicine and science.
With Blacks and Hispanics representing only 4.5 percent of doctorate scientists in the biological sciences and less than 6 percent of practicing physicians, the summer research program addresses the urgent need for training and mentoring opportunities that encourage minorities to pursue careers in these fields.
"This program provides not only the hands-on research training that is so vital, but it also instills the confidence and passion that will encourage a more diverse representation among the future ranks of doctors and investigative scientists," says Marks.
According to Thorsen, "Many of the students who will join Columbia for the summer are first-generation college students coming from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The opportunity to work with professional mentors is a key to their advancement in these fields and the program gives them the opportunity to forge these important relationships."
The success of the program is reflected in the progress of last year's participants, several of whom have been accepted to medical schools and graduate science programs, with the remainder continuing their undergraduate studies at Hunter with plans to attend graduate programs. A Hunter senior and native of the Caribbean who explored possible new therapies for cystic fibrosis with his mentor last summer returns to the program for a second year.
"Science is my passion, but I never thought I would have the resources to succeed," says the student. "The summer research program gave me a chance to develop my abilities in an environment I never thought I would have access to."