METEOR Program Shines Spotlight on Clinical Research

Historically minorities have been underrepresented in the science and research fields. Looking to offer more educational opportunities and increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students considering research as a career path, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National Medical Center (CTSI-CN) launched the Mentored Experience To Expand Opportunities in Research (METEOR) program. The program, which kicked-off this summer, encourages newly-admitted George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) students from underrepresented communities to test the clinical and translational research waters by matching them with a mentor engaged in clinical or translational research.

“I hope this program will identify and develop promising individuals, who happen to be underrepresented monitories, to consider a career in clinical research and become a lasting part of the GW community,” said Lisa S. Schwartz, Ed.D., M.S., associate director of Research Education, Training, and Career Development at CTSI-CN and director and assistant research professor for clinical and translational research programs at SMHS. The METEOR Program will be promoted and listed as a competitive fellowship opportunity to URM students applying to GW’s medical school program.

Mentors were chosen based on their research interests, as well as their desire to mentor incoming medical students. The goal was to match an incoming medical student with someone who would be committed to working with them for the duration of their medical education. “These mentors have made a commitment not only to providing enrichment in the area of research, which is the primary goal of the program, but also to act as academic advisors and to be resources for these students,” said Yolanda Haywood, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the department of emergency medicine at SMHS.

Keith S. Boniface, M.D., also associate professor of emergency medicine at SMHS, was paired with Mark Hanna, one of three medical students, along with Yushekia Hill and Eric Strong, accepted into the program this year. The men were matched because they both had experience in trauma and in the emergency department. After participating in the CTSI-CN Mentor Development Program last year, Boniface was interested in giving back to the program and helping the METEOR students. “I think the METEOR Program is a great way for students to get exposure to a variety of research environments, network with clinician researchers, and gain experience in clinical research,” said Boniface.

Hanna wanted to get a head start on translational research, which he believes is crucial because it takes the basic sciences of the academic community and connects them to real world populations. Their research will focus on the utility of clinician-performed ultrasound at the point-of-care in the emergency department. “Our overall goal with point-of-care ultrasound is to bring technology to the bedside to rapidly make the diagnosis, in order to expedite treatment,” said Boniface.  

During the first 8-week summer session of the program, medical students and mentors are encouraged to meet on a monthly basis and complete evaluation forms regarding their research progress. METEOR Program students are immersed in research throughout their four years at SMHS. These students are required to enroll in the research track of the medical school curriculum, complete a second summer internship between their first and second years, and participate in a research elective during their final year of medical school. The program also takes advantage of GW’s location in Washington, D.C. by coordinating visits to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and the Food and Drug Administration. Boniface hopes to help Hanna develop skills that will allow him to take the first steps as a clinician-researcher and gain perspective on both the rewards, as well as the challenges, of clinical research. “By conducting research, building interpersonal relationships, participating in the mentoring process, and acquiring knowledge through various experiences, I am better equipping myself for a successful future as a physician,” said Hanna. “By having this professional relationship, I feel that I am receiving vital information that cannot be understood through books or within the classroom.”

Schwartz hopes the program will become more competitive every year. Recruitment for the program may be expanded to undergraduate students throughout GW’s campus in the coming years. Ultimately, the program’s goal is to have current medical students step into the mentoring role after they complete the program and share their positive experiences with a new crop of applicants. “It would be an honor to be a mentor one day,” said Hanna. As a mentor, Hanna said he would focus on teaching important knowledge and methods in medicine.