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In Their Words: Medical students explore advantages of Scholarly Concentrations

Scholarly Concentration with outline of the state of Indiana

Scholarly Concentrations at Indiana University School of Medicine offer an optional experience that complements the core medical school curriculum and empowers students to delve into topics of personal interest, learn through topic-specific courses, complete a scholarly project, and produce a manuscript submitted for publication along with a poster for presentation at IU School of Medicine Education Day. Students in the Scholarly Concentrations Program benefit from the school’s statewide network of experts and resources, receive unique mentorship opportunities, develop skills, and complete scholarly work, all elements of their medical education that are valuable for residency applications and professional development.

Students in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Urban Medicine and Health Care Disparities Scholarly Concentrations share their experiences with the programs, examining what they’ve learned and how the programs have shaped their medical school journey.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (Terre Haute)

Julie Vaughan, Class of 2023

Headshot of student Julie VaughanWhy did you choose the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Scholarly Concentration?

I am really interested in family medicine. And with that, I'm really interested in preventative medicine — sort of the true primary care where you keep people from getting sick, and then you try to keep them healthy. My big interest within medicine is preventative care. So I saw that the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Scholarly Concentration fit that to a tee. It’s certainly not limited to people going into primary care, but it’s pretty perfect for those going into primary care.

What’s been your favorite part of your Scholarly Concentration experience so far?

One of probably the most unique parts of the Scholarly Concentration is you work with a lab in Muncie on the Ball State University campus, and you go through a lot of the different tests that you would refer patients to. So I got bloodwork done to test my blood counts, my lipids, my cholesterol, and those kinds of things. I also did a treadmill stress test, and I had a bone scan done. I had to keep an Activity Monitor on me for two weeks. They can also look at your waist circumference and test your muscle strength and all of these tests that we routinely order for our patients.

The idea is for you to actually see what that test is like so you can talk to your patients about it. After you do all of those tests, you sit down with one of the Ball State students who's studying in that program, and they walk you through your assessment of what areas you're doing well in and what areas you can improve upon from a health standpoint. So it was really neat seeing what the consultation side of it looks like when you're on the receiving end.

How has participating in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Scholarly Concentration shaped your medical school journey?

I've always been interested in preventative medicine and keeping people healthy, but I think the Scholarly Concentration has made me more aware of what all that can entail. Being healthy is not just eating well and exercising: It's a lot more complicated than that. And I think there are ways to make it a lot more approachable for patients because that can be a tricky subject to bring up.

I think the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Scholarly Concentration does a good job of making you more prepared for those conversations and helping you be more creative with solutions. There's a big focus on working with your patients to find ways to help these changes fit well into their lives. It's a very personal, individualized approach, and I think the concentration does a good job of showing that.

How has your work with your Scholarly Concentration come up in residency interviews?

It has come up in every single residency interview I’ve had! It is usually brought up in response to research, community service, passion within medicine, or as an example of taking initiative/filling a need. Every person who has asked has expressed how impressed they are with the project. Several of them have actually asked for the YouTube channel link and have become a subscriber. One had already made a recipe from my video before the interview!

What scholarly project have you chosen to undertake and why?

For my project, I'm doing a video-based intervention trying to tackle food insecurity. What we've done is work with food pantries to come up with a list of foods that are commonly stocked at those food pantries, and then using that curated list, we develop nutritious recipes that people can make using more limited food options or pantry basics.

Then we make cooking videos on how to make those recipes and upload them to YouTube – and all of that is freely accessible. The ideal audience we're trying to reach is food-insecure individuals, particularly families who are food insecure. But it's a really neat project and I've really loved doing it.

Urban Medicine and Health Care Disparities (Northwest-Gary)

Hunter McCollum, Class of 2024

Why did you choose the Urban Medicine and Health Care Disparities Scholarly Concentration?

I applied to this concentration when I applied to medical school. I originally did not get accepted, though, I just got accepted to the Northwest–Gary campus. But I just started working on a project. And after working on it and submitting a manuscript, I was offered to continue in the Scholarly Concentration because I had met the requirements outside of the courses. So it really was more about choosing a field of research and then kind of finding the Scholarly Concentration afterward.

What’s been your favorite part of your Scholarly Concentration experience so far?

It's definitely been the scholarly project and really just getting a better understanding of the patient population that I'm going to be confronted with when I graduate from medical school and go to my residency in the Air Force. Even though I'm only active for 45 days out of the year and really not around the patients I'm going to see when I'm out of medical school, the project gave me an opportunity to actually engage with those patients and have a better understanding of their needs.

How has participating in the Urban Medicine and Health Care Disparities Scholarly Concentration shaped your medical school journey?

It's definitely given me a broader understanding of all the other things patients face before they can actually address just really baseline medical needs. A lot of the Scholarly Concentration focuses on psychiatric care and barriers to care, so it’s shaped the way I think about the patient experience between the patient being in the office or in the hospital and at home. What it takes for them to go from at home to in the hospital or in the office were things I just really hadn't considered as much, so the Concentration helped my understanding of what are the barriers to care for various patients.

What scholarly project have you chosen to undertake and why?

We did a project with a local organization that's called Operation Combat Bikesaver – a nonprofit organization that tries to do what they call “Hot Rod therapy.” They work with veterans, and they basically offer this healthy outlet for them to come and build motorcycles. And then through that, they also offer more formal connections to healthcare and psychiatric care as well as peer support groups.

So we did a research study with them sort of as a community-based participatory research study to analyze and review the effects that this program has had on veterans in the Northwest–Gary area. That project was important to me because I'm in the Air Force, so I'm doing the Health Professions Scholarship Program. What I wanted to do, since I'm sort of removed from that patient population right now, was get exposure to and learn better ways to help that population while I'm in medical school and still learning.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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