For medical students, a summer of research


L to R: family medicine summer research fellows Jerry Markar, Wes Gibbert, Rebecca Cholst and Frank Aguilar.

Between their first and second years of school, medical students have a rare summer off.

Some of them relish the last care-free weeks they’ll have for years to come. But four students — Wes Gibbert, Jerry Markar, Rebecca Cholst and Frank Aguilar — are using their summer to get experience in patient-centered research with a fellowship that also pays a $3,000 stipend.

The new fellowship, offered in the department of family medicine, gives medical students “the opportunity to immerse themselves in patient-centered research projects that they might not get during the course of the four-year curriculum,” said Memoona Hasnain, associate head for faculty development and research.

Hasnain, associate professor of family medicine, and John Hickner, head of the department, developed the eight-week program.

“This fellowship gives students who will go on to become primary care physicians an immersive research experience that introduces them to research tools and skills, including research design and implementation, that they can use throughout their careers,” Hasnain said.

The fellowship includes a three-day course in the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science to learn research techniques, and a research project that students work on with faculty mentors over the summer.

Students will present the results of their projects at scientific meetings and at the department of family medicine’s Annual Scholarship Day in the year following the fellowship.

For example, Gibbert will work on identifying factors associated with undiagnosed hypertension.

“There are a significant number of patients with blood pressure readings indicative of hypertension,” he said.

“But their medical charts don’t contain a diagnosis of hypertension, and we want to find out what patient-related factors might be influencing the lack of diagnosis.”

The research team will look at patient medical records with blood pressure readings that indicate hypertension, without the diagnosis. The patients will be contacted by phone to help researchers determine why hypertension was not diagnosed.

“Some patients may have beliefs or access issues that could influence receiving a diagnosis of hypertension,” Gibbert said.

“If we find out what those might be, we may be able to take those into account and diagnose and treat more patients.”


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