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New lecture series encourages medical student research



                                       Nick Hastings, OMS II

Dec. 14, 2011

By Charlie Martinez and Elizabeth Boyle 

The sense of discovery—the idea that something has never before been fully understood—is what draws Nick Hastings, OMS II, to research.

“I just think it’s fascinating,” said Hastings, who as an undergraduate not only conducted chemistry research but also helped teach a research-focused course on the topic.

Now Hastings, who is involved with research as a medical student as well, is bent on sharing the experience with his classmates. Earlier this year, he created the new Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) Research Lecture Series, a lineup of talks by OU-HCOM faculty and other researchers meant to foster biomedical, clinical and social science research among students.

“The lectures benefit new students who are just learning about the research process,” Hastings explained. “They also help students who want to start their own research project and give them resources like where to go for funding.”

The series complements existing research-focused opportunities at OU-HCOM such as Research Day and initiatives like the nine-week Research and Scholarly Advanced Fellowship (RSAF) Program. Lectures thus far have included an overview of opportunities in social and biomedical fields and a talk on health-related research across the university in psychology and biomedical engineering. Future topics range from international research opportunities to potential projects at partner hospitals in the Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education (CORE).

The series began in 2010 as the Research Immersion Club, but Hastings transitioned it to the lecture format this year so more students and faculty could take part.

“It puts research on the same level as professionalism and business of medicine as an important topic for OU-HCOM students,” said Douglas Mann, Ph.D., pointing to two of the college’s other lecture series. Mann is executive assistant to the dean, assistant professor in the Department of Social Medicine and the club’s faculty advisor.

Ultimately, the organizers said, the series is expected to educate students about identifying research topics and help them join ongoing research by building connections between those who want to participate and faculty members who have research under way.

“Minimally, the lecture series will orient students to the opportunities at HCOM and CORE and provide some guidance on how to access them,” said Audrone Biknevicius, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences chair and one of the series’ speakers.

“The program is part of a parallel effort here at the college to enhance research awareness and opportunities for medical students, she added.

That effort is supported by a $105 million gift from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations that is enhancing OU-HCOM research efforts, especially in the areas of diabetes, cancer and neuromusculoskeletal disorders.

An additional incentive for students to take part in this series and others, the organizers said, is that those who attend a certain number of events within a series receive an academic letter in their file confirming their presence. The files serve as the basis for future letters of recommendation, for example, and can have great impact on students’ careers.

“Residency spots are limited, and as programs become more competitive it is important to be able to set yourself apart from other applicants,” said Lauren Blech, OMS II, who helped launch the series.

And organizing the talks has had an added bonus for Hastings: in developing them he found a research project and mentor. Working with Jane Hamel-Lambert, Ph.D., associate professor of family medicine and director of the Appalachian Rural Health Institute, Hastings is researching the effectiveness of the lecture series for those who attend.

“Im hoping to prove that a program with a structure like this one will allow more students to get involved in research,” he said, adding that he would like other osteopathic medical schools to adopt similar programs.

Funded by the Office of the Dean and the Department of Social Medicine, the lunchtime series offers free food for those who attend.
Visit the Student Government Association site for more on the series
and its forthcoming schedule.  

 
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