Published May 17, 2017
Medical students Priya Patel and Alison Treichel are headed to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland, to participate in a yearlong residential program that trains the next generation of clinician-scientists and biomedical researchers.
They are members of the 2017-2018 class of the Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP), which serves as a fellowship between the third and fourth year of medical school and places students in NIH laboratories and patient care areas, including the NIH Clinical Center, to conduct basic, translational or clinical research in areas that match their career interests and research goals.
MRSP scholars select a program mentor and create a career-development plan under the guidance of an assigned adviser. Mentors are full-time NIH investigators with established research programs.
In addition to a rigorous research agenda, scholars experience the full spectrum of medical research by attending lectures, seminars, clinical teaching rounds and other courses. They also highlight their research in formal presentations to the NIH community and at professional conferences.
Treichel, a native of Saratoga Springs, New York, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the State University of New York at Geneseo.
“My goal is to become a dermatologist with an academic focus in research related to dermatoimmunology or cutaneous oncology,” she says. “I have a particular interest in the development of more targeted therapeutic approaches for both autoimmune and oncological disease processes.”
As an undergraduate, Treichel conducted research on the carcinogenic effects of the steroid cream clobetasol on vulvar cancer cells.
“Our focus was on unraveling the protective mechanisms involved in disease remission and using this information to develop a novel targeted therapeutic approach for treatment of pemphigus vulgaris,” she notes.
Treichel is greatly looking forward to the opportunity the MRSP presents.
“The NIH is home to one of the world’s largest clinical centers purely dedicated to research and scientists who are world authorities in their respective fields. I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable team whose innovative research impacts medicine on a global level,” Treichel says.
“I look forward to gaining valuable skills I will use during the rest of my career, and I hope that one day my research makes a difference in the lives of those affected by disease,” she adds.
Working in Maryland also provides a fringe benefit for Treichel that hits close to home.
“My family currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, so I also look forward to having the opportunity to spend more time with my parents and sister,” she says.
Patel was a dual major in cognitive science and biology with a minor in South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Newburgh, New York, native has been involved in extensive research during both her undergraduate and medical school careers.
At Penn, she studied in a computational perception and cognition lab as well as a lab in social evolutionary genetics.
Following her first year of medical school, she was awarded a UB Summer Research Fellowship to work at the neuro-oncology lab at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center directed by Robert A. Fenstermaker, MD, director of neurosurgical oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD.
Fenstermaker and Ciesielski recently developed a vaccine called SurVaxM that targets survivin, a protein unique to cancers including glioblastoma multiforme, and are currently conducting clinical trials.
“At this lab, I studied the role of exosomal survivin in cancer survival and progression. This experience was a significant motivation for me to apply to the NIH MRSP,” Patel says. “It was exciting to learn about current cancer immunotherapies as well as to directly witness the impact of translational research at both the bedside and on a much larger scale.”
Patel’s long-term goal is to work at an academic hospital and research center where she can practice medicine while playing an active role in translational research and clinical trials.
“I have had many positive experiences during my third year of medical school that have exposed me to a variety of exciting fields, and I look forward to continue exploring them at the NIH,” she says.
Patel feels fortunate to have had research experience in computational neuroscience, evolutionary genetics and neuro-oncology during college and medical school.
“I am very excited to have this next year as a protected time for full-time research. This will be the first time that I am able to fully immerse myself in research for a continuous 12 months,” she notes.
“I am honored to have this incredible opportunity to work alongside some of the top physician-scientists in the world, and I look forward to building the foundation for a lifetime research-oriented career while at the NIH.”
Previous UB participants in the MRSP are: