News Global Health Center Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

2023 Summer Research Program Summary

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

The 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program has come to a close with students engaging in three tracks of collaborative study: Public and Global Health (10 students), Aging and Neurological Diseases (12 students) and the program’s newest track in cardiovascular disease and hematology known as RADIANCE (12 students). In total, more than 120 students from 15 different universities in the U.S. and Ireland applied to participate, with 34 selected for the program at Washington University in St. Louis.

William Powderly, MD, the Larry J. Shapiro Director of the Institute for Public Health kicked off the program with his talk on “Taking Discovery from the Bench to Solving Local and Global Challenges in Health”, which covered subjects from current spending in health care and research, to HIV and implementation science discoveries in medicine. Later, in a keynote address, Dominic Reeds, MD, discussed “The Where and Why of Type 2 Diabetes in 2050.” Reeds is a medical director of nutrition support service at Barnes Jewish Hospital, an associate dean of research at Goldfarb School of Nursing and a professor of medicine at WashU.

A student presentation at the Summer Research Program

During the eight-week program, WashU faculty mentors guide program participants on research projects in their labs, conduct lectures and offer career advice. “We simply could not host this program without the support of our faculty mentors and donors,” said Victor Dávila-Román, MD, who leads the public & Global health and RADIANCE tracks and is director of the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health. The two tracks are supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (RADIANCE track), and the Children’s Discovery Institute of Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital (Public & Global Health track) along with individual sponsorships of students in the program.   Students in the 2023 Public & Global Health and RADIANCE tracks participated in a boot camp to learn more about each program component. They attended seminars by faculty experts in global and public health and heart and blood disorders and helped rejuvenate a PocketGarden on St. Louis’ north side.

Students in the Public & Global Health Track help rejuvenate a PocketPark on the north side of St. Louis

Seminar topics ranged from preparing for careers in public and global health-related fields; biostatistics; environmental research and scientific methods; and the basics of data science to sickle cell disease; hemophilia and epidemiology; issues faced by people in underrepresented backgrounds and race; ethnicity and health disparities; community-engaged research; and health policy and economics. Students spent an extensive amount of time working hands-on in labs alongside their faculty mentors. 

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend a number of lectures on various topics within the sphere of public health. The lecture series has been one of my favorite aspects of this program, as I have gained valuable exposure to important research and work in public health, touching on subjects that I have already begun to explore and areas that are new to me.

Student in the 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program—Public and Global Health track

Students in the Public and Global Health and RADIANCE tracks also had time to explore parts of St. Louis and enjoy dinner and other activities with program leaders and participating mentors. Their summer at WashU concluded with a symposium including slide presentations and overviews of their summer research. Read more in the symposium program.

Never before in my academic or professional career have I been surrounded by such a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse group of colleagues. This experience has deeply impacted me, and I know it will stay with me forever. It has reinforced the importance of representation in the field of public health.

Student in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program—RADIANCE track

Student in the 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program—RADIANCE track

The Public and Global Health and RADIANCE student cohorts enjoy a final dinner together


Students in the summer program’s Aging and Neurological Diseases track attended seminars on topics such as aging, research ethics, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, ageism, racial equity in research, palliative/end of life care, public policy and advocacy, and community-engaged research. Students read and discussed research journal articles and toured Memory Home Care Solutions’ caregiver training facility to learn about caring for people living with memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. They worked alongside faculty mentors in labs and connected with older adults and aging specialists at various St. Louis community organizations.

Student s in the Aging & Neurological Diseases track enjoy dining out in St. Louis

I was surprised by just how much of our population is aging, how little we are taught about aging in most settings, and how prevalent ageism is in culture. I have started thinking more intentionally about my own thoughts on aging and how I speak about it. I will also go forward with more knowledge on the diseases that often affect older adults and will continue to try to learn more about them.

Participant in the 2023 Summer Research Program—Aging and Neurological Diseases track

In what has become one of the most popular activities in this track, students participated in community-related activities simulating the physical limitations of older adults and wrote blog posts about their program experiences. Read blog posts.

The Aging and Neurological Diseases track culminated in a poster session presented by students, who spoke with visiting audience members about their summer projects and research. Research topics included Retention in Cognitive Intervention Trials in People with Parkinson’s Disease; Women’s Perceptions of Cultural Beliefs in Participating in Alzheimer’s Disease Research; Purpose and Wellbeing in Retirement; Trust of Research in African American Older Adults; Recruiting Diverse Populations in Alzheimer Disease Research; Cultural Adaptation of the U.S. Stroke Knowledge Test; and Spatial Navigation Abilities, among others.

Students in the Aging & Neurological Diseases Track present their research to onlookers at the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center atrium

I learned a lot about my personality, and my strengths and weaknesses in this program. I feel more confident in my ability to step into different professional environments, especially in academia. I learned that I really enjoy working alongside others in collaborative ways and that I really want to work towards a career that benefits society.

Student in the 2023 Summer Research Program—Aging and Neurological Diseases track
The 2023 Aging & Neurological Diseases cohort with program leadership

The Summer Research Program—Aging and Neurological Diseases track is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke via the NIH Summer Research Education Experience Programs funding opportunity.

Read more about special scholarships that helped students attend the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program.