Career Education and Enhancement for Health Care Research Diversity Program for Medical Students (CEED II)

The Career Education and Enhancement for Health Care Research Diversity Program for Medical Students (CEED II), like its sister program for junior faculty and fellows, is at its core concerned with addressing the dearth of underrepresented minorities in academic medicine and in clinical research. “The idea of it is so important and critical,” says program director Sonya Borrero, MD, MS; “we value diversity in these fields because it brings an incredible richness of perspective and elevates our science and clinical practice.” As the leadership of the principal CEED program observed the impact it had on participants, they began to wonder what effect if might have to provide a positive exposure to research to scholars at an even earlier career stage.

CEED II is borne out of this desire to intervene as early as possible in the careers of its target participants—third-year medical students—and is focused on encouraging medical students to explore a career in research. CEED II therefore provides students with opportunities to network with mentors and with Scholars from the senior CEED program, creating a supportive community of people with similar experiences who can offer advice to one another. It also aids participants as they complete their required scholarly projects, offers skill-building sessions to enhance their progress, and provides financial support to enable them to present their work at a national meeting.

Although it can already be considered successful, the program is nevertheless faced with several challenges. Medical students are undoubtedly a prime target population, but medical school is incredibly rigorous, with each year packing in as much information and experiences as possible. The program must therefore maintain a careful balance between what it requires of students, and what it offers them. Its leaders continually ask, How can the program support and encourage while not placing too much of a burden on an already stretched-thin group of students?

One approach has been for the leadership of CEED II to narrow the pool of potential scholars. The program originally accepted med students in any year, an approach that had its problems. Med students are required to complete their scholarly project by the end of their 3rd year, and should have identified their topic by midway through their 2nd year. First-years are therefore generally out of the picture since they for the most part don’t know what they’d like to pursue with their project. Second-years could make for a good group, but are largely out of commission for four months in the spring when they study for their boards. And although the fourth-years may have the most time available to participate in a program like CEED II, the program’s leaders wanted to give students the opportunity to include on their CVs, in time for residency application season, their participation in the program and the presentation they’ve delivered.

That leaves the third year, which, despite its own challenges, like the amount of time taken up by clinical rotations, nevertheless seems the most apt. In order to allow participants to attend the relevant didactic sessions, requests are made to excuse them from their clerkships. One difficulty that arises is that sometimes the sessions are out of reach for the students—both literally, because of clerkships that are too critical to be excused from or too far away from campus, and metaphorically, since some of their rotations are so effort-intensive and draining that even if they could make a session, they may not be able to glean as much information. Although med students will likely not be able to attend all of the didactic sessions that they would like to, CEED tries to fill in the gap through other means.

One of the things participants cite as being especially valuable is the program’s conveyance of some of the “intangibles” of conducting medical research—things like how to give a good presentation, how to make a good poster, and how to give an elevator pitch. Thomas Elliott, an alumnus of the program and currently a fourth-year medical student, found especially useful the advice about how to make meaningful progress on your research while you’re waiting for the data to come back. For Darvé Robinson, another alumnus and fourth-year, it was the opportunity to observe “what real medical research feels like”—and the reality that a clinician-researcher may have clinic responsibilities in the morning and then need to shift quickly to “research mode” in the afternoon.

Robinson mentioned a few other notable pieces of advice, which he’s already put into practice: the importance of always having a really good research mentor who is one stage ahead of you in the career path, and the necessity of having some kind of longitudinal focus running through your career, which will help you stay in touch with your passions.

Essentially, CEED II tries to convey not only how to conduct research, but also how to conduct yourself as a researcher. In this regard the program can be deemed a success, since several alumni have gone on to get advanced degrees in research.

So, while questions about future directions of the program are as yet undefined, with possibilities constrained in part by logistics—for the moment CEED II serves as an excellent model of a diversity-focused career development program that has conscientiously found its niche, and that purposefully helps participants find their passion and follow it throughout their career.

The Institute for Clinical Research Education serves as the Research Education and
Career Development Core of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

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