Part 2: Get your study off the ground

So, you’re a medical student living in a post-Step 1-score world. As we described in our previous blog post, research matters more now than ever before. That may leave you asking yourself: where do I start? 

Traditional models of research at academic medical centers follow a traditional path within the institution. Maybe you scout out senior clinicians and researchers at your institution doing things you care about. Maybe you find a fellow or resident who mentions to you a project they’re working on. Maybe you see a name in a journal, or press release, that piques your interest.  

You then set off on a trail of (often cold) emails, interviews, and research meetings that add up to—often—grunt work (read: IRB protocols or chart reviews) on existing projects. In exchange—often—you’re rewarded with a lower-level authorship. Then, on the next project in the lab’s queue, you’re one author higher. Months later, perhaps you have an opportunity for a first authorship. Later still, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to propose your own project. 

The struggles of medical student research (alternatively called “undergraduate” medical research, in reference to medical students’ status as learners within the undergraduate medical education [UME] system versus “postgraduate” residents) are all but hidden in plain sight.  

A 2015 review of the literature only found 20 reports with concrete data on the UME research experience. And according to the review, by and large, participation in UME research is ad hoc. 

For example, while graduating allopathic medical students participating in the 2022 MATCH reported 4.0 research “experiences,” historically, formal integration of research experience into medical school curricula remains rare. More than half of respondents to a survey about their research experience had difficulty finding a mentor. That’s despite the fact that research experience is frequently addressed by program directors during residency interviews.  

Moreover, the outcomes from UME research are often unpredictable.  

One study found that one-quarter of research participants had zero publications by the end of their medical school tenure—a separate study found that one-third never published. In the former study, nearly half of students had never been invited to present at a national conference, suggesting that they were not the first and/or corresponding author. A third study found that students participating in less research for less than 18 weeks—almost 5 months, an entire semester’s worth of time—were less likely to have any first author manuscripts. 

Overall, studies characterize UME research as plagued by “unreasonably high expectations on medical student participants despite limited time” in addition to “a lack of mentorship and appropriate acknowledgment.” 

What if there was a different way? A way that better predicted positive research experiences; research on topics of interest; skills-and-relationship-building mentorship, rather than “supervision” alone; and career-advancing publications? 

At Smart Omix, we think there is.  

Our cutting-edge platform makes it easy to construct your own research—rather than just attempting to plug into existing projects. That means you can pitch projects to potential mentors, rather than merely requesting a secondary—and often made-up—role on things already in the pipeline. 

Our intuitive user interface means you all you have to do to get things off the ground is come up with a hypothesis. Dynamic, easy-to-use templates for designing your cohort; filing necessary paperwork; protocolizing study methodologies; collecting and analyzing data; and disseminating your work mean you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  

Then, rather than pitching an “idea” to a mentor, you can pitch a project that already has rubber on the road. In turn, it means that you can actually lead your own research efforts.  

That leadership results in mentorship that teaches you how to think (as opposed to how to do, as in paperwork or chart extraction). It results in higher odds of publication, since best practices are embedded in the platform, rather than left to chance should the wheel be reinvented properly. And it results in higher odds of first authorship publication. 

If you’re interested in trying our platform to level up your research game and build studies you can lead on topics you care about, reach out to us here. 

Our next blog will describe how you can use leverage Smart Omix’s decentralized digital platform to enroll participants quickly and in patient-centered ways. Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss a post. 


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