Editor’s Note: The Society of Hospital Medicine’s (SHM’s) Physician in Training Committee launched a scholarship program in 2015 for medical students to help transform health care and revolutionize patient care. The program has been expanded for the 2017-18 year, offering two options for students to receive funding and engage in scholarly work during their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years of medical school. As a part of the program, recipients are required to write about their experience on a biweekly basis.
As a medical student, the summer is an excellent time to pursue extracurricular activities. While some people take these weeks to learn new skills in basic science laboratories or travel abroad for international electives, many will assume the role of a student researcher. But, with only 10 weeks of dedicated research time in the summer it can be challenging to see a project from start to finish.
The greatest challenge, however, is not in identifying a project that is possible to complete in 10 weeks. Instead, it has to do with the fact that as students we are inexperienced researchers, and such a short timeline leaves little room to troubleshoot problems when they inevitably arise. This, among other reasons, is why research mentors are an invaluable resource to students.
While my research mentor has helped tremendously in logistical tasks, such as helping me write a research proposal and navigate the IRB process, it’s his experience and knowledge of the research process that I’ve found to be most critical during this 10 week period. During the planning of the project he helped me identify pitfalls and weaknesses in our methods, which has helped me avoid major setbacks during the execution of the project. As a result, the project has been running smoothly and I have yet to run into any significant problems.
Reflecting on this fact has reminded me of the importance of planning ahead. We started outlining and planning this project about 6 months before my research period officially began, when we could both mull over the details without the pressure of time. Though unforeseen problems may still arise, I think this strategy has made all the difference and it’s a lesson I will take with me for future projects.
Cole Hirschfeld is originally from Phoenix. He received undergraduate degrees in finance and entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and went on to work in the finance industry for 2 years before deciding to change careers and attend medical school. He is now a 4th year medical student at Cornell University, New York, and plans to apply for residency in internal medicine.