SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
College of Medicine
About Medical Student Research
The Importance of Research
Research experience is important for students as they learn to think as physicians. Evidence-based medicine has become of paramount importance in making treatment decisions. Research has also become increasingly important for residency applications, especially as Step 1 transitions to a Pass/Fail assessment. Additionally, research experience in medical school may start a student on the path to a career in academic medicine, pursue a job in the pharmaceutical or the biotech industry.
At SUNY Downstate, the importance of research in medical education is evident in both the Pre-clerkship (Foundations) and Clerkship years. Student learn scientific method, hypothesis testing and scientific writing in Foundations 1, and progress to data manipulation by Foundations 2. Biostatistics is interwoven throughout the Pre-clerkship years. Summer research experiences are available and encouraged between the first and second year. Many students present their research at national meetings or during the Annual Research Day which is held every spring.
All students are required to complete a Research Experience Project (REP) in the 4th year, which involves the writing of a hypothesis driven research paper. Some of these projects become publications that help propel a student’s research career.
Getting Started in Research
As early as orientation, students learn about research opportunities that are available. It is suggested that students begin to think about possible areas of interest starting in the fall of the first year, after Unit 1.
The first step involves finding a research mentor. There are mentors available from all of the SUNY Downstate schools, including Public Health as well as the School of Graduate Studies in addition to Medical School Faculty members. Some students elect to do summer research at outside institutions.
In the fall of the first year, lunchtime programs are held that introduce students to potential research mentors. A list of Faculty who have recently mentored students is provided to students at that time.
Summer Fellowship opportunities are available at SUNY Downstate as well as many other Institutions. Funding for student summer research is available through the Alumni Summer Research Fellowship Program, which requires a 3 page application that is submitted in the spring before the summer in which the research is to be performed.
For students who are not accepted to the Fellowship, work study money is often available.
For a more extensive research experience, one-year funded research training programs are available through national and international sponsors and the Alumni Association; These prestigious year-off research opportunities are pursued by some students between their second and third or third and fourth years of school.
The College of Medicine and the School of Graduate Studies jointly sponsor a program leading to a combined MD/PhD degree. This program combines a medical education with an intensive research experience and is designed for students who are interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine. Students receive a stipend and a tuition scholarship throughout the duration of the program. Students already entered in the MD program who develop an interest in research and an academic career can apply at any time during their first three years in medical school.
Medical students at SUNY Downstate can earn a Master of Public Health degree at the same time they earn their MD degree. Some students choose to complete the MPH by taking summer courses starting before the first year of medical school. Others take a year off between the third and fourth year of medical school to complete the MPH. Students may decide to enroll in the program after they begin their Medical School education as well. The program focuses on the health of immigrant and urban populations and includes concentrations in biostatistics, epidemiology, community health sciences, health policy and management and environmental and occupational health.
Awards For Research Activities
Medical Students who have made a significant research contribution are eligible to graduate with a Distinction in Research Award.. There is also the Commendation in Investigative Scholarship award that is given to a student who has participated in a basic science or clinical project for a limited period of time or who has participated in a project, which has not reached maturity. These awards are made at the graduation Convocation ceremony.