With the new MENTOR program, medical students will get the chance to do research in the labs at EPIC.

With the new MEnTOR program, medical students will get the chance to do research in the labs at EPIC.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Robert Bradley

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) T35 (medical) training grant will allow medical school students to do research in the Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center labs at Clemson while strengthening partnerships between academic partners in the Greenville Health System (GHS) Health Sciences Center.

Kerry Smith, the director of EPIC, an interdisciplinary research cooperative with a focus on biomedical research of eukaryotic pathogens, and a Clemson University School of Health Research Faculty Scholar, received funding for five years to support his Medical Enrichment Through Opportunities in Research (MEnTOR) program. This is the first training grant at Clemson awarded by the NIH.

Starting in the summer of 2019, the program will provide an eight-week summer research experience for rising second-year medical students at the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville in the research labs at Clemson.

The USC School of Medicine and Clemson University are part of the The Health Sciences Center which is a unique collaboration between Greenville Health System and three primary academic partners: Clemson, Furman University and the University of South Carolina, with a goal to fulfill growing workforce needs through effective education programs, and to transform patient care through innovative clinical and translational research.

Students will work in laboratory-based research of eukaryotic pathogens, which are causative agents of diseases such as malaria, amoebic dysentery, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and fungal meningitis; build mentoring relationships with accomplished physician-scientists; participate in weekly workshops on advanced research techniques and instrumentation used to diagnose infectious disease; and responsible research conduct.

As part of the program, the students’ educational opportunities will be enhanced by visiting various research and medical facilities such as the Electron Microscopy Laboratory in the Advanced Materials Center in Pendleton, as well as the clinical laboratories on the GHS Greenville Memorial Medical Campus.

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith
Image Credit: Kerry Smith

The idea for the program started from a conversation Smith had at a CUSHR event with Dr. Jennifer Knight, Academic Vice Chair of Pathology with GHS and a professor with the USC School of Medicine Greenville. Knight told Smith that there were not enough research opportunities for their medical students, which prompted Smith’s interest in starting this program and opening EPIC labs to medical students.

The program will combine scientific discovery with clinical insight to drive medicine forward.

“The MEnTOR program will be a valuable part of the Fellows’ medical school education, thus helping to prepare the Fellows for a career as a physician or physician-scientist,” Smith said.

But it will also be a chance for interdisciplinary experiences in academics and allow Clemson undergraduate research students, many of whom are pre-med students, to interact with medical students.

“This program will raise EPIC’s national profile and advance the mission of the Center to train future scientists in the field of infectious disease,” Smith said.