A little bit each day

Written by Brian P. Kinealy, MD candidate at University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine and alumnus of the Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

The Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program is an incredible opportunity for scholarship, networking, and community engagement. Through didactics (making moral observations), research mentorships, and immersive learning activities, there is an abundance of rich experiences to be had. Several moments in particular have called me back to that time and the formative lessons gained then.

During the summer of 2016, my research in the lab of Dr. Robyn Klein focused on blood-brain barrier permeability in neuroimmunologic and neuroinfectious disease. Perhaps most impactful on a professional level was the opportunity to present my methods and results at two separate conferences since then.

Based on my interest in the mechanisms of autoimmunity in neurologic disease, I participated in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Medical Student Clinical Mentorship at Mt. Sinai the following summer. In addition to the direct impact on my career, several anecdotes help to illustrate the reach this program has had.

Volunteers from the United States and Honduras unite for an optical brigade and to construct two houses in El Piliguin, Honduras.
Volunteers from the United States and Honduras unite for an optical brigade and to construct two houses in El Piliguin, Honduras.

During my first year of medical school, we were given a learning objective on malaria. I instantly thought back to Dr. Audrey Odom’s lecture on drug resistance and the most recent antimalarial treatments. Later, when rotating on the infectious disease consult service, I opened a book on the shelf written by Dr. William Powderly, currently the director of the Institute for Public Health (IPH) and an instrumental figure in the field. The chance to meet and learn from such impressive leaders is really an incredible component of the IPH Summer Research Program.

Finally, the most unique and arguably the most important aspect of the program is its emphasis on engaging the local community to fuel change on a global level. As a group, participants explored the city, performed service, and were given a tour and presentation of the county health department. These experiences gave us the tools to assess and understand community needs. Learning how to address these needs with local resources is a skill that has translated into the design of my community integration project in rural Missouri as well as trips to Honduras as a medical volunteer and Spanish interpreter.

Now, I am in my fourth year of medical school at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Currently, I am working on translational rodent models to study the neurological correlates of swallowing in health and neurodegenerative disease, such as ALS and Parkinson’s Disease. I plan to go into otolaryngology (ENT).

Fortunate circumstances will bring me back to Washington University this summer for a subinternship experience in the department of otolaryngology. I think the best advice I have heard and could pass along to prospective participants and students in general is to just do a little bit each day. Looking forward to internship, residency, and beyond, one of the challenges I anticipate facing is to continue reading throughout long hours, call, and overnights – even if for just an hour a day. Consistent effort will make these daunting tasks more manageable.