Skip to content

Published: August 01, 2012

Summer Surgeries, Research Boost Confidence of UT’s Pre-Med Students

Hannah Webster ’14, a biology major with a pre-medicine concentration, has always wanted to be a doctor but wasn’t sure if she’d be the type to faint in an operating room.

As one of six UT students participating in a summer internship program with UT and the Tampa General Hospital Medical Group, she has proven not to be — she witnessed a kidney transplant and liver resection all without hitting the floor.

“I was nervous going into the operating room for the first time, but by the first incision, I was fine,” said Webster, of Irvine, CA. Her fellow interns echoed her comment.

“Before this I wasn’t sure how I’d do in the operating room. Would I get nauseated?” said Faris Galambo ’13, a chemistry major, who was born in Texas and raised in Kuwait. “Having seen surgeries now, I can tell this is something I can do.”

This boost of confidence is part of the intended outcome of the summer clinical research internship. The three-month intensive program allows the students to shadow doctors in the operating room, in outpatient clinics and on rounds, perform statistical analysis, and write and submit abstracts and manuscripts for publication.

“This program is about giving somebody an opportunity to really have a stand out chance of getting into medical school,” said Macnish Christian ’11, Tampa General’s clinical research data coordinator in the Center for Outpatient Research Excellence (CORE).

For Wayne Price, a UT Dana professor of biology, the opportunity was exceptional.

“It is difficult to arrange even shadowing experiences for undergraduates at hospitals much less a summer program involving shadowing and clinical research with the possibility of resulting publications,” said Price. “This program will give our students an advantage when applying to medical schools as well as expand their view of the medical field and the various professions in it.”

Working under the director of the Office of Clinical Research Jennifer Cooper, Christian has initiated, organized and is running the summer program. As a recent UT graduate with a degree in biology with honors and who also plans to apply to medical school, Christian said the students have written seven papers and have four submitted abstracts accepted for presentation at the American College of Gastroenterology’s conference in October.

“They have gone from having no clinical research experience to having their names on publications,” said Christian, who is from London.

With a focus on the liver, the students are assigned their research topics and are mentored by two physicians, Dr. Guy Neff, chief of hepatology, and Dr. Dr. Angel Alsina, director of transplants. All of the projects involve federally approved medications that are being tested to prove the benefits of use. The students comb through hundreds of medical charts, reading diagnostics, physical and lab results, analyzing and processing the data.

“The students have seen and visited with patients on these drugs, and they see the impact it is having on them,” said Christian. “It feels good to go home and feel like you are making society a better place.”

This kind of clinical shadowing that includes interactions with the patients is one of the highlights for Maxx Ramirez ’14, a biochemistry major; Cathleen Bruner ’13, a biology major; and Jade Arrobas ’11, a recent biology graduate. They all said it helps make the late nights of wading through charts and early mornings prepping to shadow a surgery totally worth it.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime,” said Ramirez, of St. Louis, MO. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” 

Have a story idea? Contact Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
Sign up for UT Web Alerts