NIDDK Research Opportunities

Don Rockey, M.D.

There is currently a crisis in physician led research in academic medicine. The 2021 NIDDK Strategic Plan for Research specifically recommended that there be an effort to “Bolster workforce development and training to increase and diversify the pipeline of clinical investigators.” The report further emphasized the critical importance of “Addressing the workforce pipeline at earlier career stages”. We believe that Medical Students are at the peak of their formative transition, and thus engaging them in GI and liver disease research is highly responsive to the NIDDK call for action. Training scientists in biomedical research requires specific scientific expertise, including a firm understanding of topic matter and the ability to generate novel and relevant research hypotheses. Through our expertise and experience, we are in an ideal position to provide the training necessary for Student’s long term success.

Further, current evidence suggests that mentorship is one of the most critical requirements for successful engagement of trainees at all levels, particularly in formative years of training, such in medical school. Multiple scientific organizations have called for quality mentoring opportunities for trainees. A needs assessment of MUSC Medical Students has identified 2 major areas of need related to GI and liver disease research on the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) campus. First, access to skilled and successful researchers is required. Secondly, a structure around training and development of projects, embedded in a matrix of quality mentorship, is required. Therefore, the overall objective of the MUSC Gastroenterology (GI) and Hepatology Medical Student (MUSC-GIHMS) Training Program is to enable Medical Students to participate in high quality research during their medical school training. Our vision is to provide access to quality research projects, and while doing so, engage, inspire, and excite a diverse group of medical Students in the field of GI and hepatology.

In an effort to be highly responsive to the NIDDK Funding Opportunity announcement, PAR-21-034, the Specific Aims of this application propose to (1) provide both a focused research experience during the spring semester of second year for MUSC Medical Students, (2) to provide advanced curricular course work in digestive and liver disease research for Students, and (3) to continuously evaluate and improve the program so that it is sustainable over time. The current proposal will provide Students with an ideal setting to participate in GI and liver disease research and ultimately through recruitment of these committed and diverse Medical Students, will expand the pool of researchers engaged in GI and liver disease research.