Sharjeel Chaudhry, a second-year M.D. student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), had applied for a few fellowship opportunities since becoming a medical student, and even received two offers — but one stood out.
“The Sarnoff Fellowship is one of the most unique research programs in the country for medical students,” he explained. “In addition to a $32,000 stipend and funding for research supplies, the award gives students $8,000 to travel around the country and find the ‘perfect’ research lab to work in for one year.”
Chaudhry is one of 10 recipients of the prestigious Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation Fellowship, named for Stanley J. Sarnoff, who developed the program in 1979 to immerse students in cardiovascular research while building mentor-protégé relationships. It’s an opportunity Richard Katz, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology, Bloedorn Professor of Cardiology, and professor of medicine at SMHS, described as a “truly excellent launch pad.”
“This is a great opportunity to develop his research skills and build expertise, and then define the career he would like to take and establish new goals with regard to cardiovascular research, as well as being an M.D.,” Katz said. “This [fellowship] really takes young people and immerses them in research.”
As a new fellow, Chaudhry has ample resources available: he not only has a lifetime of subsidized expenses for scientific meetings, including the Sarnoff Annual Scientific Meeting and the American Heart Association Scientific Session, but he also has the luxury of choosing the mentor, lab, and research project best suited to his goals.
“High on my list is Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft’s lab at Harvard, because I had an amazing experience working in his lab as a [National Institutes of Health] T-35 Research Fellow last summer,” said Chaudhry, who will receive additional guidance from a scientific committee. “Dr. Flaumenhaft is an incredible mentor and researcher.”
At SMHS, Chaudhry found a mentor in Jill M. Paulson, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at SMHS, who served as a leader in his Clinical Skills and Reasoning Group. “The quality of work that he’s done has been truly amazing,” said Paulson, who also wrote a letter of recommendation for Chaudhry. “He was able to publish so many abstracts and get so far in his research over one summer that it was obvious he has a gift.”
Chaudhry’s intellectual prowess has crossed boundaries between fields before; he previously worked as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and, Paulson said, stayed on part-time while he started medical school. “I worked on developing and implementing large IT modernization efforts for my clients,” he explained. “For instance, at one point, I developed solutions to integrate wearable devices, such as Google Glass, to limit the number of adverse outcomes in emergency departments.”
Now, thanks to the fellowship, he has the chance to translate his past experience with technology and his current medical knowledge to the lab.
“The Sarnoff Fellowship is really important to me because it will provide me an opportunity to bring together my interests in technology with my passion for medicine,” said Chaudhry, who’ll complete his research during the 2017–18 academic year. “Eventually, I hope to gain the tools necessary to use bench science to serve the needs of patients.”