August 03, 2017

The write stuff: U-M medical students learn research, publishing skills

Many students are making an impact by exploring scholarly dissemination — the process of conducting research and sharing their findings

Writing and publishing

While studying under the transformed medical school curriculum, U-M med students are able to tailor much of their educational experience to their own individual interests and long-term goals.

While pursuing such ambitions, faculty and med school leaders are also emphasizing that students make an impact in the health care community while still in school. For many students, that means exploring scholarly dissemination — the process of conducting research and sharing their findings.

“In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative for medical students leaving U-M to be proficient in writing and editing,” said Joseph Linzey, a student who recently worked closely with Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology Aditya S. Pandey M.D., on a manuscript for the journal Neurosurgery.

The experience got Linzey hooked on research: “As future physicians, we owe it to our patients to not only be clinically excellent in our approach to patient care but to be pushing the field of medicine forward through innovative and scientifically-sound research,” Linzey said.

Students leading the way

Linzey is one of the 2017-18 editors-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of Medicine, a peer-reviewed, student-led forum established to bring high-quality scientific and clinical research by students to the scientific community at large. Students occupy all editorial roles and supply all content, and the journal is published by Michigan Publishing, a unit of the University Library, in conjunction with Health Information Technology & Services.

More than 20 students wrote for the May 2017 issue on topics ranging from combating the opioid epidemic after surgery to the value of cardiothoracic rotations for general surgeons. It also included an article by Taylor Novice, Adish Parikh and Rahul Iyengar: “Transforming Medical Education: Academia Meets Innovation.” The article is a prime example of the impact the transformed curriculum is making.

Under the new curriculum, “Second year medical students [at U-M] have organized a Shark Tank competition in which teams of students develop a solution to a clinical problem; form partnerships with technical, legal, and business experts; and pitch to a panel of surgeons,” the students wrote. “Encouraging medical trainees to think this way can empower them to develop these nonclinical skills essential for innovative solutions.”

“The curriculum is not only pushing students to pursue activities they may not have pursued before, it is actually giving them something they can refer to in their work,” said Assistant Dean for Educational Research and Quality Improvement Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of emergency medicine and learning health sciences. “As we move the new curriculum along, we are all pausing to say ‘this is really innovative and we need to make sure we are out there publishing about it.’ U-M is transforming the way medicine is taught and the health care community should know about it.”

A community of scholars

Paula T. Ross, Ph.D., director of accelerating scholarship within the Office of Medical Student Education, said that by sharing their research, students are joining a community of scholars.

“This will help them make an impact in their faculty career — and in so doing, will help make them better doctors and improve the future care for generations of patients,” Ross said.

At a recent Association of American Medical Colleges meeting, one-quarter of the research papers were written by Michigan contributors and one-third of the student presentations were from U-M. By the time they graduate, 75 percent of U-M students will have some sort of publication to their credit.

Another avenue on campus for students to become involved in scholarly dissemination is the collaborative called SAMS, which stands for Students Advancing MedEd Scholarship.

SAMS is for students interested in developing new ideas and gaining research experience in medical education. It also serves as a community for students to share their ideas for innovations in medical education and to provide support to come up with ideas for scholarly projects and see them through to publication.

“For those of us who want to focus on research or teaching, it’s really valuable to get some experience with those processes now in order to have that foundation for residency and beyond,” said student Max Griffith. “It can be overwhelming to take on the process of writing and publishing without support from your peers or guidance from faculty. We get that here.”