News » MD Student Dara Baker Selected for NIH Medical Research Scholars Program

MD Student Dara Baker Selected for NIH Medical Research Scholars Program

Congratulations to Dara Baker, third-year MD student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), who was named as a fellow in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) 2019–20 Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP).

Baker is one of only 50 students chosen for the prestigious yearlong research training program, which allows students to take a year off from university studies to conduct basic, clinical, or translational research on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. 

During her research year, Baker said she will be working in the National Eye Institute at NIH. 

“I had applied at the last possible minute and had been sidetracked by my surgery clerkship when I received the call,” she said about finding out she was named a fellow. “I had actually been in the OR at the time, walking out of a long case only to find fours missed calls on my cellphone. Hearing that news really brightened my week.”

Participants in the program receive mentored training and conduct research in areas that match their personal interests and research goals, which for Baker is ophthalmology. 

Observing an eye surgery in her third year at SMHS really piqued her interest in the field, she said.

“What I love about the research in this field is its investigation in both local and systemic pathways of disease. Ophthalmology research encompasses molecular biology, bioinformatics, technology, biophysics, and many other overlapping fields of interest for me,” she said. 

Scholars in the NIH program are assigned an adviser who helps give guidance on developing a career development plan and on selecting an NIH research mentor. Throughout the year, MRSP scholars participate in courses, journal club seminars, a structured lecture series, and clinical teaching rounds at the NIH Clinical Center. 

Baker said her adviser for the year will be Colleen Hadigan, MD, staff clinician in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease's Laboratory of Immunoregulation, and she also will have a mentor at the National Eye Institute assigned to her when she begins work in July. 

“I am very grateful that GW offered me a year to take time off, connected me with researchers in the school, demonstrated patience in the process, connected me with faculty who are established as physician-scientists, and allowed me to travel to the interview when the opportunity arose,” Baker said. “All of these factors allowed me to pursue this fellowship.”