August 10, 2001  Summer program offers research opportunities for minority students
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August 10, 2001

Summer program offers research opportunities for minority students

081001srtp.jpg (15560 bytes)Cesar Castro (left) was looking for a fulfilling summer internship program to enhance his exposure to clinical research before returning to medical school at the University of California-San Francisco. He found such a program here at the MGH with the Summer Research Trainee Program (SRTP) that is run by the MGH Multicultural Affairs Office (MAO).

The goal of the program is to expose minority students who are juniors and seniors in college or in their first or second year of medical school to biomedical research in basic science, clinical medicine or health policy. It is funded this summer by the MGH Office of the President and the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization.

Castro was one of 12 students selected from a nationwide competition to join the program. Students are assigned to an MGH department where they work on research projects under the mentorship of an MGH investigator.

Assigned to the MGH Cancer Center, Castro's time has been jam-packed with conferences and seminars, three significant research projects and mentoring sessions with Bruce Chabner, MD, clinical director of the Cancer Center, and his primary mentor Richard Penson, MD, of the Hematology/Oncology Unit. Castro researched the use of alternative medicine in treating cancer patients and also studied the use of the antibiotic erythromycin as a palliative option in end-of-life care. Castro's third project looked at introducing a palliative care consult to cancer patients about to enroll in a phase I clinical trial.

"This program has been an invaluable experience," says Castro. "Witnessing first-hand influential physicians such as Drs. Penson and Chabner – who can seamlessly shift in conversation from discussing novel cancer research to how to better care for patients in underserved populations – is a testament to the multidimensional and top-notch care delivered at the MGH."

Castro is a good example of the kind of student that the SRTP hopes to attract with the goal of inspiring under-represented minority students to become physicians and scientists by involving them in cutting-edge research. The SRTP has been doing just that since it started in 1991, and has encouraged many minority students to go into the field. Some have even come to work at the MGH.

Patricio Gargollo, MD, can attest to the success of the program. Gargollo was accepted into the SRTP six years ago when he was a junior at Baylor University in Texas. Now he is a second-year resident in MGH Surgery.

In 1995, Gargollo worked with David Sachs, MD, in the Transplantation Biology Research Center, studying xenotransplantation.

"When I was in college, I knew that I wanted to go to medical school, but my experience with this program did influence my decision to eventually come back to the MGH," he says. "I knew I wanted to be here."

According to Elena Olson, program manager of MAO, the SRTP is one of several outreach programs the office has developed to help increase the minority applicant pool. "The goal of these programs is to target promising minority students at different levels of their education to provide opportunities in the medical and research fields," she says. "Our larger objective is to increase the number of minorities in training programs and staff positions throughout the hospital. The MGH has made a strong commitment to increase the number of physicians of color to reflect the change in our patients' demographics."

For more information about MAO programs, call (617) 724-3831 or visit http://www.mgh.harvard.edu/mao


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