Three students interested in careers in medicine recently completed a three-month-long research internship with MDisability, an educational initiative of the Department of Family Medicine. This year’s cohort included Suhas Kellampalli, a rising senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and a master’s degree in public health; Blessed Mbogo, a rising fourth-year university honors student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., studying biology and psychology on a pre-medical track; and Ariana Nigoghosian, a recent University of Michigan graduate with a degree in neuroscience.
The summer internship, which celebrated its fifth year, is a unique academic program that trains the next generation of researchers interested in improving health outcomes and access to care for people with disabilities. Since its establishment, the internship program has educated 16 students.
Each intern was assigned a faculty mentor or mentors with whom they collaborated on a capstone project as well as a group project. These projects included:
- The Association between Hearing Loss with Weight Misperception (Mbogo, who worked with mentors, Michael McKee, MD, MPH, and Tyler G. James, PhD, MCHES®)
- Comprehensive Medication Reviews for Patients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Nigoghosian who worked with mentors Steve Erickson, PharmD, and McKee)
- Home-based Cervical Cancer Screenings for Women with Physical Disabilities (Kellampalli and Nigoghosian who worked with mentor, Diane M. Harper, MD, MPH, MS)
- Feasibility of a Best Practice Advisory Designed to Increase Preventative Care Among Individuals with Physical Disabilities (Kellampalli who worked with mentor McKee).
- Group project: Disability-related Accessibility of Family Medicine Clinics (Kellampalli, Mbogo and Nigoghosian, who worked with James)
To view this past summer’s internship presentations, click here.
Kellampalli, who aspires to be a clinician scientist who creates an impact on the disability community through clinical practice and research, said the MDisability summer internship contributed to laying the perfect foundation for such a future.
“Not only did the internship allow me to build crucial research skills that I can employ in future research endeavors, but it also provided me with insight into the clinical advances that still need to be made to achieve health equity for individuals with disabilities,” Kellampalli said. “Even more importantly, the internship connected me with a community of disability advocates from whom I will continue to learn and draw inspiration long after the end of the internship."
Mbogo said the MDisability internship informed his health awareness from a disability lens perspective in areas that include clinical practice, academia, law, and policy.
"This empowered my fellow interns and me as aspiring physician-scientists in becoming professionals that advocate for all identities and associated intersectionalities within the social justice sphere,” he added. “I will be continuing my summer research with my mentors and potential collaborators for publication.”
Nigoghosian said every aspect of the MDisability experience has been an incredibly memorable one for her.
“Inclusivity has long been a core passion of mine. With this internship, I was able to apply that passion to my desire to enter the healthcare field,” she said. “The diverse range of projects, rich education, clinical exposure, and extraordinary community fostered by this program creates a lasting impact for all involved. It has furthered my desire to increase accessibility and reduce inequity for those with disabilities.”
She added that the internship yielded for her an advancement towards greater inclusion in medicine and society, while simultaneously building a remarkable community of individuals who are taking strides to increase accessibility on multiple fronts.
“As I pursue medicine, I will take this invaluable experience with me, using all that I have learned to promote an accessible, inclusive environment for all," she said.
The MDisability Summer Internship Program will resume in 2024. For those interested in applying for an internship, please contact MDisability Program Coordinator Dawn Michigan at [email protected].
Watch the interns' presentations here: