Alpert Medical School AANS Student Chapter Prepares for Inaugural Research Conference
The AANS Student Chapter at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University has wasted little time making its presence known. In its first year of existence, the chapter will host medical students from across the country for its inaugural Student Neurosurgical Research Conference, which will take place February 2, 2019. In this Chapter Highlight, Samuel Tomlinson, MS-4 (YNC Medical Student Representative) speaks with Chapter President and Founder, Adriel Barrios-Anderson, MS-2, about the upcoming event.
Samuel B. Tomlinson (SBT): Can you briefly introduce us to the AANS Medical Student Chapter at Brown?
Adriel Barrios-Anderson (ABA): Our chapter is about 10 months old this December . We started the chapter last March as a way to connect interested students to a national organization, as well as to establish a community of students interested in pursuing neurosurgery. Our chapter has 15 members, most of whom are first-year students who were the first class to enter the medical school with a fully-established AANS chapter. The goal of the chapter is to be a resource for students to access conferences, journals and funding to support them in their career goals. Since our inception, we’ve hosted a match panel, a neurosurgery research presentation by faculty and discussions about work-life balance with our neurosurgery residents, among other activities.
SBT: How did the idea for the Student Neurosurgical Research Conference (SNRC) come to fruition?
ABA: For students interested in neurosurgery, the advice online and from faculty is consistent: get excellent standardized test scores, do well on your clinical rotations and be as productive a researcher as possible. When it comes to research, students are largely on their own in terms of acquiring research mentors and engaging in scholarly activities. A number of other student organizations have local or regional conferences that are specifically designed for medical students, and I have found that these conferences can be great opportunities to practice presenting research, while getting advice that is tailored to the early stages of our careers. There is incredible value in attending conferences like the AANS and CNS, and we felt that preparation for these national conferences can be supported with a conference exclusively for students. Further, medical students rarely get the opportunity, outside of our individual mentor interactions, to receive feedback about our research and grow as science communicators. We wanted to give students engaged in neurosurgical research the opportunity to reinforce these skills. So, with these ideas in mind, we approached our department chair, Dr. Ziya Gokaslan, with the idea for the SNRC, and he has been instrumental in making our idea a reality. We were also fortunate to receive financial support from the Brown Neurosurgery Foundation to help secure the resources we needed for the event.
SBT: What activities are on the agenda for the conference?
ABA: Our conference is primarily a research conference; therefore, the main portion of the program is aimed at sharing scholarly work as poster presentations and oral presentations. In the morning, we will start with poster presentations. The poster presentations are part of a guided poster session that will be led by our Brown Neurosurgical residents. The plan is for students to practice summarizing their work, field questions and receive individualized feedback by our residents. Later in the morning, there are four medical student oral presentations, selected by our neurosurgical residents. For lunch, we will hear a keynote lecture from Dr. Wael Asaad, Brown faculty neurosurgeon and researcher, who plans to talk about current research efforts in his lab as well as the role of research in his career as a physician-scientist. In the afternoon, we have planned surgical-skills workshops for students to practice knot-tying, suturing, EVD placement with a virtual-reality system and surgical drilling.
SBT: How many participants do you anticipate?
ABA: We are looking forward to hosting about 25-35 medical students for the inaugural conference. We are thrilled that many local medical students, as well as those from schools in the South and West Coast, are planning to travel to Providence, R.I., for the occasion.
SBT: What do you hope participants will take away from their experience at Brown?
ABA: Our conference is first and foremost an educational endeavor, so we want students to practice their research presentation skills, learn from others about their research work and practice surgical skills that can be supportive for students as they complete sub-internships and go on in their careers as neurosurgeons. I am optimistic students will have a positive experience connecting with peers and learning from our faculty and residents. Neurosurgical conferences similar to ours have been shown to foster excitement and increase commitment among medical students interested in neurosurgery, and we hope that our conference will do this for our attendees. Research can be an isolating experience, and we hope that by having students come together to share their work from around the nation we can facilitate networking and encourage the growth of a vibrant community of medical student researchers in neurosurgery.
SBT: Is there anything else you would like to share about the activities of your chapter?
ABA: We hope to continue to host the SNRC at Brown for years to come with the intention of bringing medical students together to share their research and support the development of the next generation of academic neurosurgeons.
Samuel B. Tomlinson, BA (MS-4)
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry