Friday, March 26, 2010

Summer Research Trainee Program promotes excellence and diversity


The term, "underrepresented in medicine," (URM) refers to racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population. Nationally, less than 7 percent of medical faculty are URM.

To help increase the number of URM individuals who enter academic medicine and perhaps eventually train at the MGH, the MGH Multicultural Affairs Office (MAO) offers bright and ambitious medical and college students an opportunity to immerse themselves in leading research and medicine through the Summer Research Trainee Program (SRTP).

Founded in 1992, the SRTP attracts URM applicants from around the country. Each year, 12 to 15 students are selected from a competitive national pool and assigned to an MGH laboratory, clinical or health policy research site for eight weeks. There the students conduct original research under the mentorship of an MGH investigator who has been matched to each student's area of interest.

Cesar Castro, MD, a clinical fellow in Oncology at the MGH Cancer Center, is a 2001 SRTP alumnus. As a first-year medical student at the University of California at San Francisco, Castro had heard about SRTP and was immediately motivated to apply.

"Fully cognizant of MGH's reputation, I knew I needed to capitalize on the opportunity," he says. "I realized it would be a unique privilege to work alongside some true medical giants."

Reviewing Castro's application, MAO Executive Director Elena Olson noted his area of interest and matched him with MGH preceptors Richard Penson, MD, MRCP, clinical director of the Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology, and Bruce Chabner, MD, clinical director of the MGH Cancer Center.

"The program aligned me with the appropriate MGH mentors," says Castro. "Elena was very responsive to what my interests were, and I readily integrated myself into ongoing cancer work. That summer, under the auspices of Drs. Penson and Chabner, I published original work relating to complementary medicine use in cancer patients."

When it was time to select where he wanted to complete his oncology subspecialty training, Castro knew the MGH was the place for him. He currently is poised to remain on faculty at the MGH; and although he graduated from the program nearly 10 years ago, Castro maintains his connection to SRTP by serving as an ardent recruiter.

"The SRTP initiative promotes excellence hand in hand with diversity." he says. "It's evident at the MGH that embracing diversity is not simply a novelty but a vital part of the MGH fabric, backed by Dr. Slavin, hospital leadership and the research community."

New SRTP students will arrive at the MGH June 14. MGH preceptors are needed to participate in the program. For information about becoming a preceptor, contact MAO at 617-724-3832 or access

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