Medical Scientist Training Program Students Achieve High NIH Scholarship Success Rates – InventUM

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Fifty percent of MD/Ph.D. students applying to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program have been awarded National Institutes of Health Research Fellowships, bringing in more than half a million dollars to the Miller School.

Left to right, back row: Nathan Balukoff, Brandon Rosen, Conor Moran and Farhan Qureshi. Front row: Daniel Rodriguez, Michelle Zhang, Caroline Coughlin, Yaa Abu and Jamie Burgess. Not pictured: Afoma Umeano and Acacia Crouch

The MSTP is intended for students who will pursue careers as medical scientists combining medicine and research. The program is supported in part by an NIH/NIGMS T32 training grant, but fellowships are another key source of support.

Success does not happen overnight, as the MSTP does its part in preparing students for various aspects of the grant application process. By applying, students learn about time management, the context of their field, how to develop goals and an experimental plan for their project, and other important grant-writing skills.

“Overall, this experience is a key part of MSTP training,” said Sandra Lemmon, Ph.D., co-director of MSTP and professor at the Miller School. “Students develop a structured set of training objectives, ensuring that they acquire the research and professional skills essential for their future careers.”

Setting up success

Under the program, nearly all MSTP students apply for F30/31 grant applications with the National Institutes of Health. The F30 Fellowship is awarded to promising pre-doctoral students pursuing a dual doctorate, such as those enrolled in MD/Ph.D. programs. Some MD/Ph.D. students are also eligible for F31 awards which promote diversity in health-related research.

Sandra Lemmon, Ph.D.,
Sandra Lemmon, Ph.D.

“Currently, 11 MSTP students have F30/31 scholarships,” Dr. Lemmon said. “Almost all MSTP students apply, and 50% of them have had their F30/31 applications funded, which translates to an exceptional success rate.”

The MSTP program takes a hands-on approach, providing close mentorship as students develop their scholarships. Co-Director Alessia Fornoni, MD, Ph.D., works with students on their specific goals during their first year of graduate training. The program also hosts fellowship writing workshops in partnership with the medical school and uses professors who have reviewed past grants as speakers.

Student value
Daniel Liebl, Ph.D.
Daniel Liebl, Ph.D.

MSTP students have been awarded F30/31 fellowships in a variety of disciplines including biomedical sciences, public health programs, and biomedical engineering, working on basic science, translational, computational, and drug discovery projects. Fellowships have been funded by NIH agencies on topics ranging from immune function, infectious diseases, diabetes, genetic disorders, cancer, neural injury and regeneration, and aging. “These showcase students’ longer-term interests in many different medical specialties,” said Daniel Liebl, Ph.D., associate director of the MSTP.

“Writing up the F30 fellowship was an invaluable experience that helped guide my research project,” said Caroline Coughlin, who focuses on combating cancer drug resistance. “After receiving the grant, the institutional stipend allowed me to attend conferences where I was able to network and present my research.”

“In the short term, I have more freedom to pursue my own research interests since I am independently funded,” said Acacia Crouch, who focuses on T cell mechanisms. “It has strengthened my research and m “addressed issues that might otherwise have been prohibitively expensive. In the long term, the F30 is an ideal starting point for my research career, as it helps build momentum to secure future funding.” “