"I decided I wanted to go to a historically black college and pursue medicine," Baldwin said. "I'm leaning toward becoming an anesthesiologist." This fall he will be a junior at Clark Atlanta University.
The new Cedars-Sinai Biomedical Education Pipeline Initiative (BEPI) was created for undergraduate students, like Baldwin, from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in pursuing graduate school, medical school or both. He and 11 other undergrads were selected for the program's inaugural summer session that started June 10.
Under the operational umbrella of the Cedars-Sinai Research Internship Program and supported by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, BEPI offers paid, 10-week internships that include mentoring by Cedars-Sinai faculty and hands-on laboratory experience through projects related to basic, translational or clinical research.
"BEPI advances Cedars-Sinai’s educational mission and commitment to excellence in clinical care. Creating a pipeline of underrepresented students focused on careers in healthcare or biomedical research is inherently beneficial because inclusion of diverse perspectives enriches research and can improve patient outcomes," said Sarah Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, associate dean for Faculty Development and Diversity, and professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"BEPI is an extension of the Summer Scholars Program Cedars-Sinai launched in 2014 as a pilot initiative with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a historically black graduate institution in Los Angeles," explained Denise Gallagher, Academic Human Resources program advisor. Adding, "Not only will these interns enhance the Cedars-Sinai research community this summer, but they promise to have a broader future impact on the diversity of the medical and research workforces."
Current BEPI interns attend Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Clark Atlanta University, Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, Pepperdine University, Whittier College and UCLA.
Another BEPI component are lunchtime dialogues with clinicians and investigators who share their professional journeys and answer interns' questions. The first in this series of discussions was held June 18 with Rodrigo Alban, MD, assistant professor of Surgery and associate director of the General Surgery Residency Program, and Melodie Metzger, PhD, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and director of the Orthopaedic Department's Biomechanics Laboratory.
"I am a first-generation immigrant from Ecuador," said Alban during a self-introduction that likely resonated with several BEPI interns who also are first-generation immigrants from across the globe, including Iran, Nigeria, Vietnam and Alban's home country of Ecuador.
Alban and Metzger have previously mentored Cedars-Sinai interns and emphasized the importance of these relationships.
Metzger shared that her mentor at the University of California, Berkeley, changed the course of her career. "I had intentions of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon, but after many conversations with my mentor it became clear that I really wanted to do research."
Alban advised the group to "seek mentors who will guide you, nurture you and genuinely care about you."
Felicia White, who's from Stockton, California and attends Clark Atlanta University, asked about overcoming obstacles.
"If you pursue your path with passion you will overcome obstacles, but you also must have grit, perseverance and conviction that you can achieve your goals," Alban said.
"I wasn't born in a foreign country, but am a female in the two male-dominated fields of engineering and orthopaedic surgery," Metzger said. "No matter who you are or what your background is, carry yourself with confidence. Your confidence will help break some of the barriers you may encounter."
Although it was only week two of their internships, students were pumped about BEPI.
Whittier College undergrad Carlos Heredia is interning in the laboratory of Dennis Hazelett, PhD, an assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences. "I'm constructing a web portal that provides information about ovarian cancer," Heredia explained. "I've never built a website, so I'm really excited to learn this new skill."
Nathalie Pham, who grew up in Germany and is being mentored by Metzger, summed up her bioprinting-related research projsuccinctly: "It's awesome."
The BEPI summer session will culminate with an opportunity for students to showcase their projects at the Fifth Annual Research Internship Program Poster Day on Aug. 2.
For more information about BEPI, visit the program's web page.