The FAER Medical Student Anesthesia Research Fellowship Year-Long program is a unique opportunity for third- or fourth-year medical students to spend a year performing anesthesiology-related research alongside a mentor. Each applicant submits a research plan of their own design and seeks out a mentor with aligning expertise. These proposals, which are submitted collaboratively by the student and mentor, go through a rigorous review based on National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines. Through the program, medical student fellows are provided:
- One year of full-time research in anesthesiology
- A formal mentor-protégé relationship with an experienced investigator
- Training in scientific methods and research techniques
- A $32,000 stipend, plus additional funding to cover relocation, housing, health insurance, travel to a national meeting and other related expenses
The recipient of the 2016 Medical Student Anesthesia Research Year-Long Fellowship is Helen Heymann, M.S. She is a third-year medical student at University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio, who received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Stanford University. She will conduct her 12-months of FAER-funded research at Stanford with her mentor of Eric Gross, M.D. Her research will focus on the molecular mechanisms of impaired endothelial-dependent vasorelaxation in diabetic patients.
“Blood vessel injury in diabetics increases the risk of perioperative adverse events,” Heymann said. “As such, identifying patients with vascular pathologies is of particular importance to the anesthesiologist. My project addresses how dysfunction occurs in vascular endothelial cells and if a biomarker can predict dysfunction severity.”
For Heymann, this research extends beyond the bounds of science into the realm of personal investment. “I am interested in asking questions that may ultimately lead to improved human health,” she said. “As an undergraduate, I spent several months working on a University of Texas diabetes survey on both sides of Texas-Mexico border. I have seen the detrimental effects firsthand. While the diabetes epidemic in South Texas and the United States has social, political and cultural roots, I hope to make an impact on how anesthesiologists manage diabetics with vascular pathologies through a better understanding of the biochemical underpinnings of the disease.”
A key component in FAER’s mission is providing resources to train young anesthesiologists for successful research and academic careers. This includes the potential for them to become mentors to others in the future. In Dr. Gross, Heymann not only sought out a mentor who can guide her research, but also serves as a true example of mentorship. “Dr. Gross’s ability to support a network of people with a broad range of experience to make a team-based environment and extraordinarily productive group is the model I would aspire to for my own lab in the future,” she said.
Regarding Helen’s research plan and career goals, Dr. Gross said, “[Her] proposal draws on my past training and expertise . . . I have a unique skill set developed over years of training to mentor her in becoming a successful academic anesthesiologist.”