Summer clinical research interns bring fresh ideas to AAMC

summer research interns

Each year, more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students apply for a summer clinical research internship at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC).

Just 20 students are selected for the eight-week program, which pairs students with a physician mentor and project team.

The ideal intern is a student who’s highly engaged and involved in projects beyond the classroom, such as volunteering at a hospital or participating in medical mission trips, says John Moxley, Executive Director of the Department of Medicine and coordinator of the internship program.

“We’re looking for students who are going above and beyond their typical coursework,” he says.

The program was founded by Dr. Barry Meisenberg, Chair of the Department of Medicine, back in 2014. It has brought more than 125 students from dozens of colleges and universities around the country to AAMC.

Together, they work to complete a clinical research or improvement project, then present their findings to a group of AAMC leaders, physicians and other guests at the conclusion of the program. Some of the students’ research has also appeared in scientific journals and been shared at national professional society meetings.

Dr. Lori Franks, Senior Medical Director of Hospitalist Medicine, mentored intern Michelle Zhu as she studied delays in patient discharge times. Poor communication and delays in hospital discharge can leave a patient dissatisfied with their care, Dr. Franks says.

Each day, Michelle obtained a list of patients on specific medicine units and visited the units at 9 am to learn which patients had a 75 percent chance or greater of being discharged that day.

At 3 pm, she returned to the unit to find out which of those patients were still in the hospital, and why.

“If those patients were still in the hospital, she would ask three different people why – the physician, the case manager and the charge nurse. Each of those three people are very important in assisting the patient through their hospitalization and the transition to home or other post-hospital facility,” Dr. Franks says.           

She and her staff are evaluating the data to determine their next steps. 

Other interns’ projects have led to system wide research and quality improvement initiatives including reduction in opioid prescribing, development of clinical pathways, reductions in unnecessary testing and cost savings in medical procedures.

Over the last few years, the program has expanded to include a lecture series on relevant health care topics. Clinical and administrative leaders give the lectures on topics including health care finance and total cost of care, medical volunteerism and medical school and residency experience, among other subjects.

 Students have noted on their evaluation forms that they appreciate the access to health system mentors, John says.

“I was amazed by the openness and attitude of the general AAMC community,” one student wrote this year. “Interns were readily welcomed to a wide variety of events and settings and the physicians and staff were very open to questions and discussions. Having the opportunity to shadow was definitely a highlight of the program!”

 “The availability of resources (human, technology, otherwise) was great- I was able to quickly access all of the people and information I needed and everyone I worked with was incredibly supportive and engaging,” another student wrote.

John says at least three to five students return every year, sometimes to continue their previous work and other times to research a new subject.

“Funding dependent, we’d love to have more students,” says John, adding that students now receive stipends for their work thanks to a donation coordinated by the AAMC Foundation.

The internship program has grown in popularity among staff members, too. John says he had to turn away potential mentors this year due to budget limitations.

Dr. Franks says it was a wonderful experience to have interns like Michelle, who bring a different perspective to AAMC.

“She was very inquisitive and it was nice to have students bring a fresh perspective to the work we are doing,” she says. “It’s great to work at AAMC because we have endless opportunities for interested students to learn about patient care and potentially choose a career in the health care arena.”

READ MORE: Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Simulation Center receives accreditation as a Comprehensive Education Institute by the American College of Surgeons 

Learn more about clinical research internship opportunities at AAMC. The application for summer 2020 interns will be available on Jan. 1.