Seven students who completed their first year at the University of Colorado School of Medicine spent this past summer participating in a hands-on research experience in a lab with a faculty mentor. They are part of the Department of Medicine Research and Equity in Academic Medicine experience also known as the DREAM Program.
This program, started two years ago by the Department of Medicine, led by Rob Winn, MD, is now under the direction of John Repine, MD, the Waring Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Student Advocacy and Director of the Webb-Waring Institute for Cancer, Aging, and Antioxidant Research. The program’s objectives are twofold—to increase the number of research opportunities for medical students and to expand the opportunities for those in underrepresented categories.
The program was developed because of data showing a large decrease in the number of physician-scientists as well as the lack of underrepresented physicians in proportion to the numbers of minority patients. In 2002 a New England Journal of Medicine article reported that in 1983, physician-scientists represented only 4% of the 479,439 total physicians in our country. Fifteen years later, physician-scientists had dropped to only 2 % of the nation’s 707,032 doctors. (AAMC 2008). And a recent paper in Science (Science 2011; 333: 1015) indicates that this problem is pervasive and extends to the awarding of NIH Grants. This dramatic decrease may be attributed to the longer training period required for the physician-scientist designation, the tremendous cost of the dual training as well as the racial biases that unfortunately exist in our culture.
Additional data shows that while only 20% of the physicians in our country are from the underrepresented category, the population of minority patients continues to grow rapidly each year. The DREAM program concept of introducing medical students from the underrepresented category to the role of research and medicine early in their career is intended to assist in filling both of these gaps. Director Repine states that even if young physicians do not chose the physician-scientist role, this exposure to medical research should make them better physicians.
The DREAM program, a two-month summer opportunity, supports each student with a $3,000 stipend from the Department of Medicine. Students submit applications and proposals which are reviewed by a selection committee and after they are chosen they choose a mentor or a specific research area. At the conclusion of the summer, each student presents an overview of their work to David Schwartz, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine and Program Director John Repine, MD.
Quan Bui one of the DREAM students described his experience in this way. “The members of the (Mark) Geraci lab were so willing to teach me; overall it was a great experience. There is so much camaraderie in academic medicine; I discovered that research is my calling. It affirmed my goal of being in academic medicine, this is my passion.” According to Director Repine, “For some of the students, like Quan, it truly is like a dream come true!”
DREAM students and their mentors for 2013 are: Bianca Pullen - Mark Earnest, MD, PhD and Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD; Brooke Bredbeck - Neda Rasouli, MD; Saned Raouf - Paritosh Kaul, MD; Quan Bui - Mark Geraci, MD; Tuong Vi Tran - Diep N. Doan, MD, PhD; Timothy Ung - Michael Graner, PhD and Quocan Nguyen - Carl Bartecchi, MD.