Medical Student Completes NIH’s Medical Research Scholars Program
Two years before starting medical school at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Noreen Mohsin was a clinical research coordinator at Stanford University. Now in her fourth year at the Miller School, Mohsin recently completed the Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP)—an immersive research experience provided by the National Institutes of Health.
The annual program features medical, dental, and veterinary students from more than 40 institutions across the country in a yearlong research immersion program for students interested in conducting basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological research. Mohsin knew from her earlier experience working in clinical trials at Stanford that research would be a crucial component in her career, and she sought the MRSP as a steppingstone to advance her skills.
“With this goal in mind, I explored potential research programs before I began medical school,” Mohsin said. “The programs offered by the NIH stood out to me, and I felt incredibly fortunate and excited when I was selected for the MRSP. Not many students have the opportunity to spend an entire year on the frontiers of research, learning from national leaders in medicine.”
A Focus on Merkel Cell Carcinoma
MRSP students not only conduct research as part of the program but also receive mentorship, get involved in numerous projects, and attend lectures by accomplished and inspiring physician-scientists. Among the distinguished guest speakers in Mohsin’s cohort was Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
During Mohsin’s time at the MRSP, she explored racial and ethnic disparities in treatment outcomes for patients with Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare and cancerous skin disease.
Another of Mohsin’s projects was to identify genetic risk factors for developing MCC before age 50.
Mohsin’s work found that several genes typically associated with breast cancer, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are associated with an increased risk for early-onset MCC. She hopes these findings will translate into screening patients with these genetic variants for MCC.
As Mohsin is finishing her final year of medical school, she has applied to dermatology residency programs and hopes to continue her research endeavors during residency, using the skills she acquired in her time at the MRSP.
“My year at the MRSP was one of the best years of my life,” Mohsin said. “I developed many friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime. To anyone who is searching for a rigorous, mentored research year, I highly encourage you to apply.
“This experience has made me confident in carrying out research projects independently, which is valuable to me as I hope to eventually work in an academic setting that will allow me to continue research in cutaneous oncology or complex medical dermatology.”