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Students strengthen career path through BSOM

MON. | 11-7-22 | FEATURES

     To get a head start on learning the possibilities of what career opportunities they may have, seniors Daniel Akhnoukh, Brielle McGillicuddy and Hannah Sprague have joined the Brody School of Medicine (BSOM) Honors Medical Research program to help direct them in a career path. This program only selected 15 students out of Pitt County, with three of them being Rose students. 

     For this program, students apply during their junior year, and start the program at the beginning of their senior year. 


Photo by Ives Howard

It is a year-long program during fourth period and is worth two honor credits. 

     “I wanted to join this program because I’ve always had an interest in the medical field but didn’t want to commit to a specific side of it until I knew about all the different possibilities,” Sprague said. “I had learned a lot about the clinical and anatomical side through my health science classes, but not much about the research behind medicine.”

     Since the BSOM only accepts 15 students out of Pitt County into the program, the applicants had a lot of competition between each other. 

     “Each hopeful applicant must submit several essays, a cover letter, and a resume in order to complete the application,” Akhnoukh said. “If the applicant is seen as a good candidate, they must undergo an interview with several research committee members, who ask a series of questions regarding future career plans, current educational endeavors and other relevant information.” 

     Sprague and Akhnoukh are not only conducting research, but they are also able to hear from professors and speakers weekly, who give lectures on various topics.

     “We have a seminar once a week on Wednesday at three P.M. when all 15 of us in the program join together and usually listen to a doctor share new information with us,” Sprague said.  “This program is really cool because we each sort of get to do our own research one on one with grad students and our individual preceptors.”

     Each student in the BSOM program conducts different types of research in their preferred career fields. Sprague is assisting Dr. Laxmansa Katwa, Ph.D. with research on cardiac fibrosis and Akhnoukh is collaborating with a physiology department professor on an epigenetics study. 

     “We have the opportunity to potentially get published in a peer reviewed journal, which I think is really awesome,” Sprague said. 

     With this program, each BSOM student must complete eight hours a week in the lab. 

     “We have to fill out a form every week detailing how many hours we worked and sort of the research we conducted,” Sprague said. “Our hours are really flexible…we have to be with our preceptor or a supervised med student while doing research so we have to find time that works for both of us.”

     With the students’ year long experience and work on their research, they will have the opportunity to share their hard work.

     “At the end of the year we present our research and findings to the public and anyone that would like to come,” Sprague said. “If anyone is interested, they should come out and listen.”

     Sprague believes she has already gained so much experience and knowledge from this program. Since she hopes to continue conducting research in college, the program has already provided her with stepping stones for her future.

     “I get to learn about new jobs and areas of interest in the medical field with every seminar, and specifically, more and more about cardiac fibroblasts in my own research every day,” Sprague said.

     Akhnoukh believes that he has gained time management skills throughout this program.

     “As research assistants, we must be able to balance work, school, extracurricular activities and the research in order to be successful,” Akhnoukh said. “The research itself is also scientific knowledge that I am gaining as a result of conducting research on my subject, both online and in the lab.”

     Sprague and Akhnoukh both believe that BSOM has given them an opportunity that will be helpful to their future, as they are able to have the experience earlier than others normally would.

     “Had I not joined this program, I would have likely had my first experience much later than now,” Akhnoukh said. “To me, it was better to get the experience sooner rather than later.”

     As the BSOM Honors Medical research program has already positively impacted Sprague, she is able to share advice or give any help to others who may be interested in this program.

     “If anyone has any questions about the research I am doing or are juniors and want to apply, they can feel free to contact me,” Sprague said.

     Akhnoukh and Sprague highly recommend anyone interested in conducting medical research to apply for this program because of the wonderful opportunities it offers.

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