The MedSTAR program provides clinical and translational research opportunities for IU School of Medicine medical students. We asked two former participants and Class of 2020 students about their experiences, Ani Yalamanchali and Ethan Steele.
Can you share what research you were immersed in through the IU School of Medicine and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) MedSTAR program?
Ani – I built a database of patient data showing the effects of radiation therapy on the immune system. From analyses I performed on these data, I was able to submit two journal articles, with a few more in the works. Additionally, I had the opportunity to present this work at a national conference.
Ethan – The MedSTAR program afforded me the opportunity to dedicate myself to a number of research projects with a mentor in my chosen specialty. I was able to engage in many scholarly activities including writing a review article, authoring a book chapter and performing my own clinical research database studies that have resulted in three manuscripts.
What was the most significant takeaway for you after participating in this program?
Ani – The biggest takeaway is that there is a hole in the medical school curriculum which this program fills. It taught me vital skills in research methods and biostatistics which I otherwise would have never learned in a formal setting.
Ethan – The biggest takeaway is confidence that I can begin residency and hit the ground running on research projects.
What advice would you give to students who are considering whether or not to apply?
Ani – If you’re interested in research, this program will give you the tools to be successful, but there are a number of different reasons you might be interested in this program. I would reach out to current or past students to ask them questions and get their perspectives.
Ethan – Reach out to one of the current or past MedSTAR students. Any of us would certainly be happy to discuss how we approached the decision. Everyone I know in the program had unique reasons for participating, so It’s a very personal decision.
How did this experience affect your future plans and career goals?
Ani – It solidified by desire to enter academic medicine and gave me tools which I otherwise would not have developed in a structured way. It also strengthened by residency application.
Ethan – My plans for an academic career in radiation oncology remain unchanged, but I feel that this experience helped establish a strong foundation in clinical research and that residency programs are excited by my strong research background.
What role did your mentor play, and how did you identify your mentor?
Ani – My mentor was vital to my success in this program. She gave me enough structure to continually make progress, but also gave me autonomy and the chance to learn from my own mistakes. She was very involved in the project and was always available to meet, despite her clinical commitments. I asked attendings on my rotation in the department about ongoing research projects, through which I was able to connect with my mentor. After working with her briefly as a third year medical student, I continued working with her as my mentor during the program.
Ethan – My mentor was extremely influential in determining what research projects to pursue. He was always available for guidance regarding how to set up my projects and navigate publication. My mentor was a junior faculty member in my future specialty with whom I had developed great rapport while on an elective rotation in the department.
The IU School of Medicine MedSTAR program is a one-year fellowship and allows IU School of Medicine medical students to be immersed in research support for one year of full-time mentored training. The fellowship plans to accept up to four students each year from IU School of Medicine who are enrolled and in good standing, and who have a proven interest in and commitment to biomedical research as evidenced by previous laboratory, translational, or clinical research experience such as the IMPRS Summer Program. The program will begin in May 2021.