Commitment to Education and Mentoring: How Memorial Sloan Kettering Continued Summer Internships During the Pandemic

Intern Kathleen Navas

Kathleen Navas, an intern in the Computational Biology Summer Program, worked on-site in the lab over the summer.

While numerous summer internships in the United States and abroad were cancelled this year due to the pandemic, Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) has kept many internship programs running – both virtually and in-person. This summer, more than 300 interns from around the world were enrolled in MSK internship programs and many more students were involved in frequent online seminars and lectures provided by MSK.

Education is one of the core pillars of MSK’s mission to lead in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of cancer and associated diseases. MSK is dedicated to training the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals, so when it became apparent in early March that hosting summer interns in-person was going to be uniquely challenging, MSK leaders quickly shifted to modify many of our student summer programs rather than cancel them outright.

“At MSK, we are acting on our deep commitment to continue educating students during the pandemic,” said Laura Liberman, MD, FACR, Director of the Office of Faculty Development (OFD). “Now, more than ever, we see why it’s vital to train the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals and to teach them how to communicate clearly and accurately about science and health.”

Some programs were modified to make them available to even more students. The Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program (HOPP) Summer Student Program, designed for high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in the biomedical sciences, shifted to a virtual seminar series open to everyone by registering here. This series, which ends August 28, includes one-hour lectures held up to three times a week from leading doctors and scientists at MSK and other institutions.  

A new program was created to focus on COVID-19 specifically. The MSK CARES (Coronavirus Academic Research Experience Summer) Program engaged past interns from the Summer Clinical Oncology Research Experience (SCORE) in literature review and analysis during the pandemic. These 14 SCORE alumni volunteered to join this brand new research program where they explored many aspects of COVID-19, including fatality rates, testing, vaccine development, telehealth, disparities among patient populations, and more. Check out their final presentations here and here.

Throughout the year, MSK hosts more than 25 different student programs that give high school students, college students and recent graduates the opportunity to work alongside our world-renowned staff in a variety of different areas. Some examples of student programs include the Clinical Assistance Program (CAP) for nursing students, Summer Support Internship/Employment Program for students interested in healthcare/hospital administration, Chemical Biology Summer Program (ChBSP) for chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical biology undergraduate students, Summer Exposure Program (SEP) designed to expose underserved high school students to clinical and research opportunities in oncology, and many more programs found here. There are internship opportunities in clinical research, molecular biology, chemical biology, computational biology and medicine, nursing, information technology, healthcare administration, office management, and more.

Get to know a few of our students who joined us this summer:

Anthony Martinez Benitez is a senior at Hunter College, majoring in human biology and minoring in chemistry. When he was seven years old, he and his family moved from El Salvador to Hempstead, NY, where they still reside. He first became interested in pre-med in high school after attending a summer pipeline program at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University. However, Anthony’s specific passion for research started after he participated in our Clinical Oncology Open Learning (COOL) Scholars Program. After learning about the many types of physiological and psychological effects on cancer patients through this program, he was inspired to seek out research laboratories that focus on studying the advancement of cancer. This brought Anthony to apply to the SCORE Program this summer. He has been working virtually from home, and presented his final project on the STAG2 gene, which is found to be commonly mutated in bladder cancer (and several other types of cancer). In his free time, Anthony volunteers at a local hospital. After he graduates, he hopes to join one of MSK’s research labs to continue to gain research experience and someday become a physician-scientist.

Rachelle Monteau is a pre-med student at CUNY in the highly competitive Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, a seven-year BS/MD program that specifically recruits students from underrepresented populations into medicine. Rachelle’s parents are originally from Haiti, but they now live in Queens, where she has been conducting her internship virtually this summer. Inspired by her father who is a physician assistant, she hopes to bring her medical training to underrepresented communities in the United States and abroad when she graduates. Rachelle was also accepted to our SCORE Program this summer, where she worked with her mentor, Fumiko Chino, MD, on her final project focused on racial trends in liver cancer mortality.

Kathleen Navas is a senior at UC Berkeley, double majoring in data science and MCB (Molecular and Cell Biology) with a focus on immunology. She’s spent her whole life living in the Bay Area, but in late June she travelled to New York City for the first time to work in The Quaid Morris Lab. Out of a cohort of thirteen in our Computational Biology Summer Program (CBSP), she is one of three interns working on-site. Kathleen is focusing on multiple projects, including investigating how new onset autoimmunity can inform cancer outcome predictions. While she admits that it’s a strange time to live in New York City (but a great time to jog across town and sightsee unusually empty locations, including Times Square!), she will be staying through the fall to continue working on her research.

Amelia Tran lives in Vietnam and has been conducting her internship from there this summer – working opposite hours on East Coast time! She is a senior at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts majoring in statistics. This summer, she was an intern in the Quantitative Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (QSURE) program, where she learned about the role of statistics in biomedical settings. She is grateful that her internship was not cancelled, and found that the program was still well organized and professional, even though it was all virtual. She and her fellow QSURE interns still keep in touch over WhatsApp.

For more information about internships and student and new-grad careers at MSK, please visit: