How does 17-year-old Hozie explain her silver-tongue transformation? "I was proud of the hard work Michael and I did and that made me excited to share it," she said, referring to her research partner, Long Beach Polytechnic senior Michael Chhay.
Hozie and Chhay became partners through Long Beach Polytechnic's Program of Additional Curricular Experiences (PACE). Open to academically-accomplished seniors, PACE offers three learning tracks, one of which focuses on biomedical research. Coursework includes biostatistics, ethics, institutional review board issues, human physiology and human subject safety.
Mentorship is another PACE component. From November through February, students meet weekly with experienced investigators at one of three participating institutions—Cedars-Sinai, the Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.
Hozie and Chhay were mentored by Shervin Rabizadeh, MD, interim chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Pediatrics and assistant professor of Pediatrics. Mentors introduce students to research protocols, study design and help them complete a hands-on research project. Life-guidance tips may be sprinkled in as well.
"Dr. Rabizadeh gave us a lot of good advice. He told us to pursue our dreams even if we're scared to because—if we don't—we'll regret it later in life," recounted Hozie.
"I really appreciated the guidance Dr. Rabizadeh gave us about college," Chhay said. "He told us it's good to keep an open mind and that there's nothing wrong with changing your major."
The experience can prove equally impactful for mentors.
"It's rewarding when you see these students' eyes light up when they understand a new concept," said Rabizadeh, who directs the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program and the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology. "Mentoring also reinvigorates you as an investigator. When you see their passion and interest, it's a good reminder of why we do research."
That passion and interest was evident on Feb. 25 when 13 Long Beach Polytechnic students presented their research projects to proud parents, mentors and Long Beach Poly staff members gathered at Cedars-Sinai's Harvey Morse Conference Center.
"This mentorship program with Long Beach Polytechnic is in its 19th year and nearly 300 students have participated," said Brennan Spiegel, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research, who emceed the event. "These presentations always reassure me that young, talented, smart people are interested in research and the future of science is in good hands. They've been working hard with their mentors preparing for today, so let's hear from them and celebrate their accomplishments."
Topics studied by students mentored at Harbor-UCLA's Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation and at UCLA-Westwood included adverse events associated with circulatory assist devices; the role glucose plays in non-small cell lung cancer; and mitochondria's structure and function in lung cancer.
In addition to Rabizadeh, two other Cedars-Sinai faculty members served as mentors. Timothy Daskivich, MD, assistant professor of Surgery in the Division of Urology and director of Health Services Research for the Department of Surgery, mentored Brandon Franco, who explored if the content of online physician reviews differ based on medical specialty. Sanjeev Kumar, MD, PhD, staff nephrologist and assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences, worked with Vasil Gucev and Sydney Matas whose research project focused on understanding kidney epithelial regeneration/repair after acute kidney injury.
Chhay and Hozie, who presented last, both had a positive take on their time spent at Cedars-Sinai. "It really pushed me to think at an advanced level," said Chhay, and Hozie walked away reexamining her career path. "I've always wanted to be a doctor, but now I'm leaning toward being a physician-scientist."