On July 12, a group of high school seniors and recent high school graduates will present cancer research they have conducted to an audience of seasoned oncologists at Winship Cancer Institute. The Summer Scholars Research Program (SSRP) final symposium is the culmination of a six-week oncology research immersion experience for the students who were willing to spend a chunk of their summer vacation learning to do cancer research.
While all 11 students have done science-related projects before, they have never done the depth of research required by this program. "SSRP students are paired with a mentor for the unique opportunity to design, implement, and present their own cancer research under the supervision of Winship faculty," says Winship hematologist and SSRP Program Director Jonathon B. Cohen, MD, MS. "This experience exposes students to a variety of opportunities in cancer research."
Esther Kim, a participant in the program, has spent the last few weeks working with mentor Mary Jo Lechowicz, MD, Winship hematologist and professor and vice chair for education in the Emory Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology. Working with a subset of Lechowicz's research, Kim's project focuses on risk factors for bacteremia and subsequent mortality in patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. She also had the opportunity to accompany a Winship doctor during rounds at Emory University Hospital.
"The Summer Scholars Research Program has showed me how demanding yet rewarding being a doctor or researcher can be," says Kim, a rising senior at Lanier High School who has long been interested in a career in medicine. "I have learned the ups and downs and ins and outs of what it means to be an oncologist."
Since it began in 2001, SSRP has exposed students to hands-on cancer research through the eyes of either a clinician or a basic scientist at Winship. For six weeks, SSRP students are immersed in the oncology world - shadowing their mentors in patient clinics, running experiments in the lab, attending departmental meetings, and observing tumor boards - with the goal of getting a thorough understanding of what it takes to be an oncology researcher. The program concludes with a student showcase where they highlight their research projects with a poster and oral presentation.
In addition, students attend weekly lectures from oncology experts with different specialties and take field trips to prestigious institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Emory Proton Therapy Center.
Having been through the program, Kim is now more convinced than ever that being a doctor is her path. "I loved learning what the process of clinical research looks like and what it means to work in a hospital and meet with patients. I am definitely more interested in the clinical aspect of oncology research because of SSRP."
The final symposium will be held at Winship in the Kauffman Auditorium on Friday, July 12 from 8:00am to 12:30pm.