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MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program holds winter retreat

A male student is seen balancing straws atop each other with sticky material connecting them to form the framework of a tower. Other students are looking up at him as he reaches for the top of the tower.

Matthew Molinaro, right, works on his team’s tower during the MD/PhD winter retreat team-building exercise, as other team members look on.

Penn State College of Medicine’s MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program held its winter retreat Jan. 11, 2020, at University Conference Center in Hershey, Pa.

The event was designed to provide trainees across all medical and graduate training years an opportunity to integrate with each other while working toward their future goals of becoming physician-scientists.

The student-led retreat committee hosts several events throughout the year including an annual retreat that normally takes place each spring in State College (though this year’s was a virtual event in light of COVID-19). Creating opportunities for trainees to work in small groups with each other as well as with University training faculty allows for science and innovation to become part of the program’s structure.

At the winter retreat, working in diverse teams, students answered science questions in a popular quiz-style format. Correct answers earned them materials to be used to build a tower, with the groups competing to build the tallest one.

Also at the event, Dr. Kent Vrana presented a talk about crafting a biosketch, including practical how-tos and a lot of interactive back-and-forth, with Dr. Vrana asking students for current examples and advising on best practices.

Current medical residency directors attended an interactive working lunch, where students meet in small groups with residency directors and MD/PHD program leadership to discuss residency in academic medicine. Residency directors provided students with real-world tips – especially for the fourth year of medical school, where interviewing for competitive residency programs is something MSTP students work toward.

A woman sits at a table, gesturing with her hands. Other people are visible in the background.

Lauren Kaminsky, a current PGY-3 fellow in the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, speaks during the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program winter retreat. Kaminsky earned her MD/PhD from Penn State College of Medicine and completed her internal medicine residency at the medical center.

Three students look at a tower made from straws and spaghetti.

Along with other students in the program, MD/PhD student Andrea Schneider looks at a finished tower made during the team-building project at the MD/PhD winter retreat.

Two students face away from a presentation screen with a science trivia question on it. Other students face the screen.

MD/PhD student Mackenzie Sennett, left, and other students in the program take part in a science quiz. Getting a question correct entitled a team to more materials to build their tower during the team-building exercise.

A room full of students are seen building towers from materials such as straws and spaghetti.

Student groups are seen at work on the MD/PhD winter retreat team-building exercise.

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