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A Day to Celebrate Student Research and Faculty Mentors

May 27, 2023
by Abigail Roth

Student research – especially the thesis – and faculty mentors were celebrated at Student Research Day (SRD) on May 9. For the first time since 2019, Yale School of Medicine (YSM) held this annual event in person, allowing attendees to engage with students from across Yale’s health professional schools about their more than 75 posters on display in the atrium of The Anlyan Center.

In opening remarks, Nancy J. Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace Dean and C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine, said, “This is one of my favorite days of the year,” adding that when she meets graduates and asks about their theses, “they always share the impact it had on their career. I do not have to say another word.” Lee Goldman, MD ’73 exemplifies this impact. He and his wife Jill Goldman, MS, MPhil ’71 support medical student research at YSM because they say Yale and the thesis experience fundamentally changed their lives.

Broad spectrum of student research

Four graduating students presented on their theses during the Jill and Lee Goldman, MD ’73 Plenary Scientific Session. Their topics reflect the broad spectrum of student research at YSM:

Abigail Greene: Characterizing Brain-Phenotype Relationships in Health and Disease

Rebecca Vergara Greeno: Soil-Transmitted Helminthiases and Deworming Response in School-Aged Children in Retalhuleu, Guatemala

Stephen Lee: Race, Income, and Survival in Stage III Colon Cancer: Findings from CALGB 89803 (Alliance)

Amrita Singh: A novel SMARC C1-mutant BAFopathy implicates epigenetic dysregulation of fetal neural progenitors in the pathogenesis of congenital hydrocephalus

In their presentations, each student acknowledged the support they had received from faculty, reflecting the critical role of mentorship in student research. Associate Deans of Student Research Sarwat Chaudhry, MD, and Erica Herzog, MD, PhD, also expressed their gratitude to faculty who assist student research, recognizing departmental thesis chairs, “whose efforts ensure that students’ research proposals and theses are rigorously reviewed to ensure the highest standards of methodologic rigor,” and YSM faculty, for serving as role models and mentors to students conducting research.

"Be focused on your mentee's interest"

Neil R. Powe, MD, MPH, MBA, chief of medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Constance B. Wofsy Distinguished Professor and vice-chair of medicine, University of California San Francisco, delivered this year’s Lee E. Farr, MD Endowed Lectureship, a centerpiece of SRD. In sharing his story of how he became a physician-scientist, Powe repeatedly pointed to mentors who influenced his career and, as he progressed in his career, to mentees who have enriched his career.

At the end of his presentation, Powe shared reflections, including, “Use the skills, especially scientific reasoning, you have acquired for your thesis as a foundation for the betterment of your patients, health policy, and our profession.” Chaudhry then asked Powe for advice on how to be a good mentor. Among his suggestions were to “be focused on your mentee’s interest, not yours,” and to “meet mentees where they are, help them get to where they want to be, and facilitate what they want to do.” Shifting the focus to how mentees can enhance a mentorship relationship, he advised students to have an agenda when they meet with their mentors, adding “do not let mentors tell you what to do. Let them know what you want to accomplish.”

In what has become a tradition since 2021, SRD also includes the announcement of the Dr. John N. Forrest Jr. Mentorship Award recipient. This award was established to recognize the legacy of Forrest, who is now emeritus faculty. He established the Office of Student Research in 1986, started the tradition of SRD, and served as director of student research until he retired in 2019. In presenting the award, John K. Forrest, MD, associate professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine)—John N. Forrest Jr.’s son— explained that in establishing it, his family and others wanted “to recognize outstanding faculty who dedicate their time towards medical student research.” Ultimately, he continued, “the future of medicine requires that we invest time and efforts in our students and mentor them.” Reflecting on Powe’s remarks, he noted, “If there is a common thread with every year’s Farr lecture, it’s that in each of their stories there was a key mentor who opened doors, challenged them, and helped them along their path of academic excellence.”

Exemplar of mentorship

Forrest was pleased to announce that this year’s winner was Cassius Iyad Ochoa Chaar, MD, MPH, MS, RPVI, associate professor of surgery (vascular), stating, “It is remarkable he does so much with medical students while he also does so much clinically. His work with medical students over the years exemplifies what it means to be a mentor.” Forrest also shared quotes from a couple of the students who had nominated Chaar for the award, including, “I can only hope to emulate the mentorship he has generously given me. Dr. Chaar has not only taken the time to individually take on medical students under his wings, but also created a community for them. He's patient and passionate about producing great research. He meets students where they are at and takes the time to advance their research skills without assuming any prior experience.”

Chaar, who said he was “very humbled,” thanked YSM for making research integral to medical education at Yale. He shared that he has a passion for working with trainees and students, and is grateful to work with “the most intelligent and talented students, the Yale medical students.” A recent graduate of Yale School of Public Health, Chaar is looking forward to teaching his mentees statistical analysis and research skills that he acquired with his new degree. Chaar’s receipt of the Forrest award coincides with his appointment to serve as chair of the national Society for Vascular Surgery Resident and Student Outreach Committee, which develops programs that encourage students and residents to consider careers in vascular surgery.

Chaudhry and Herzog also celebrated the students, saying they “continue to inspire us with their creativity, optimism, self-efficacy, and boundless commitment to advancing biomedical science and health care.”

Submitted by Abigail Roth on May 24, 2023