Blackard, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Digestive Diseases, estimates that more than 90% of medical students now participate in scholarly activity between their first and second years. More than half use the application the program developed. Others participate in the Medical Student Scholars Program, which provides longitudinal clinical and research experience during the student’s four years in one of 11 medical specialties. Still others connect with academic institutions near their homes for summer activities or take advantage of existing relationships they have with college faculty to find summer research positions.
In the past, it was left to students and faculty to find each other. Then five years ago, a group of students led by Adeline Yang, MD, Class of 2018, created a student committee to help improve the system and create the initial version of the common application.
“I’m proud that we’ve elevated the status of medical student research. It had been a little bit chaotic before where there were a lot of people involved and they were doing great work, but they were doing it at the department or program level. It was really confusing for the students and it was really confusing for a lot of the faculty as well,” Blackard says. “I feel very comfortable and happy about how we’ve been able to organize and structure a one stop shop for the students that is a lot easier for everyone to use.”
Despite his success, Blackard turned leadership over to Amy Thompson, MD, on July 1. Blackard’s research activity has grown with a three-year $1.7 million National Institute of Drug Abuse grant he received last year to determine how opioids interact with HIV and the medications used to manage it in the search for new therapies to better assist individuals battling addiction and living with HIV. He also is expecting another significant grant award to begin shortly.
“I get a lot of energy from working with our students,” he says. “I like working directly with them. You absorb their energy. They have so many positive thoughts and so many good ideas.”
Thompson currently is an associate professor, vice chair of education and residency program director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She will be stepping down from her departmental responsibilities to concentrate on further enhancing medical student research initiatives. Thompson will continue her clinical practice and personal research activities. She also is nearing the completion of her doctoral work in Education and Community Action Research at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.
“I am very pleased to have Dr. Thompson in this new role. She has been a stellar role model for students as a clinician, educator and investigator,” says Melanie Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research, to whom the position reports. “I also want to share my appreciation and gratitude for Dr. Blackard’s tremendous work in elevating the status of medical student research, and better organizing the program and the processes in matching students to research opportunities. He has been a wonderful partner to enhance a truly important component of our medical students’ education.”
“I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to being able to take the program from where Jason has brought it and take the next steps to grow the program and allow students to have really solid research experiences,” says Thompson, who has been an advisor to the program for several years.