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IUSM-based internship program caps year with poster session

May 1, 2014

For the past seven years, a unique internship program at the IU School of Medicine has given sophomore and junior undergraduate students at IUPUI the opportunity to work alongside research scientists, administrators and faculty on a wide range of projects.

LHSI poster

Roziya Tursunova, center, presents her research at the annual Life-Health Sciences Internship poster session in the VanNuys Medical Science Building Atrium. | PHOTO BY JUAN GUZMAN

The Life-Health Sciences Internship Program, a part of the IUSM Graduate Division, celebrated another successful year April 25 during a poster session in the VanNuys Medical Science Building Atrium.

“Coming into the program, I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Greg Rothchild, a sophomore pre-professional biology major at the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI who was one of 45 students in the program that presented their work at the seventh annual poster session. “But right off the bat I become completely engrossed in my lab and assigned various tasks and responsibilities."

George Sandusky, DVM, M.D., senior research professor of pathology and laboratory science at the IU School of Medicine and a longtime faculty participant in the program, served as the mentor to Rothchild, whose work ethic and passion for medical research so impressed him that he chose to offer him a position in his lab for the rest for the next two years.

"This whole program has been an awesome experience," Rothchild added.  "From the connections I have made to the real contributions in the lab, it's really solidified my passion for pursing medicine as a profession."

Throughout the poster session, LHSI students had the opportunity to see others’ work and network with fellow students and faculty mentors. David Wilkes, M.D., executive associate dean for research affairs and August M. Watanabe Professor of Medical Research, served as the keynote speaker at the poster session. He encouraged students to build upon the relationships they have built while a part of the program and issues to challenge to be innovative and lead research and medicine into the future.

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Randy Brutkiewicz, M.D., center, associate dean for graduate studies and director of the IUSM Graduate Division, speaks to an LHSI intern.

Another student in the program, Rachel Novack, an IUPUI sophomore studying kinesiology, served as an intern in the lab of Mary Beth Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor at the IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Science. Novack's internship provided the opportunity to contribute to research on the muscularization of arteries in the lungs, concluding a decrease in right ventricular pressure after exercise was not due to decreased muscularization surrounding arteries in the lungs.

“The program has really given me the chance to work with others at different stages of the career path I am currently pursing,” said Novack, who aims to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at IU. "It really allows students to explore fields of interest on a level most other undergraduate students don’t get."

Established in 2007 with funds from the IUPUI Commitment to Excellence, the LHSI program's mission is taking pre-professional students out of the classroom and into labs and offices across the IU School of Medicine, said Brandi Gilbert, director of the Life-Health Sciences Internship Program. This year students from seven different schools across the IUPUI campus participated in the program.

"This is a good place to learn things like interviewing, professional behavior in the workplace, communication skills and time management while working in a relevant, compensated position," Gilbert said. "IUPUI is such a large campus with so many great resources and many times it’s difficult to navigate. LHSI helps students develop a more personal connection and build important networks which will help them during their time here and beyond."

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Forty-five students and their mentors filled the atrium during the poster session on April 25. 

The program also serves as a way for students to explore career paths they might not have considered in the past, she added, noting that about 60 percent of past participants in the program who have since graduated are now enrolled in graduate or professional school -- and that about 98 percent of students to participate in the program who have not yet graduated remain enrolled full time.

Former interns in the program have gone on to graduate school in medicine, nursing, dentistry, health administration, optometry and pharmacy, among other majors. The program accepts students from numerous pre-professional majors and minors across almost all of the different IUPUI schools, especially the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI and the bioengineering program at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI.

Next year, LHSI looks forward to further growth. Applications to the program from students across the IUPUI campus rose a total of 66 percent for the 2014-2015 session, Gilbert said.

"The networks our interns gain are invaluable and many students have used this to help them acquire jobs or have successful graduate or professional school applications," Gilbert said. "Some of our earliest cohorts have now graduated from graduate or professional school and are working in their field of interest; it’s exciting to see this transition from a student to a professional which our program makes possible."

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