An important part of training the next generation of physicians is ensuring they are exposed to the integral role research plays in improving treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering helps promote this link through its Medical Student Summer Fellowship Program. For more than three decades, the program has given medical students the chance to conduct basic laboratory or clinical research under the mentorship of Memorial Sloan Kettering faculty.
The eight-week program is offered to medical students who are considering careers as physician-scientists in oncology or related biomedical sciences. A wide variety of research projects are offered. Students apply to work on projects in their areas of interest and are selected by the faculty mentors overseeing the projects. During the program, students also have the opportunity to interact with other Memorial Sloan Kettering scientists, attend lectures, and present their research in the final week. This year, the program has received 676 applications. Approximately 50 to 60 students will be accepted.
“The insight I gained from observing and interacting with experts in their fields was amazing,” said New York University School of Medicine student Ariel Marciscano, who participated in the program in 2008, conducting clinical research under the guidance of medical oncologist Ariela Noy. “Not only did I receive excellent research experience, it also provided a window into life as an oncologist.”
Many mentors took part in similar programs during their own training and consider the experience invaluable. Physician-scientist Jedd D. Wolchok, who has been a mentor for several years, participated as a student in Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 1984, and worked in the laboratory of Alan N. Houghton, a pioneer in cancer immunology.
“It really brought home to me the connection between laboratory work and clinical care,” said Dr. Wolchok, now a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “I would do monoclonal antibody research using patient cells in the morning and then later in the day see some of those very patients when I accompanied Dr. Houghton on rounds.”
This view is echoed by Ross L. Levine, an oncologist and assistant member in the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, who was a program mentor in 2008. As a medical student, his work in a laboratory altered his career path. He plans to participate in the program again this year. “As a physician who got a taste of the lab and ended up returning over and over, I really feel the responsibility to give students the experience that could change their careers — as it did mine.”