Research program equips students with essential skills for careers in medicine

David Hale, a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, lost count of the number of times he was asked why his research experience was relevant to neurology during his residency interviews.

Throughout medical school, Hale helped examine the mechanisms and interactions between the cannabinoid and opioid systems in inflammatory pain. He worked in the lab of Daniel Morgan, a professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, pharmacology and neural and behavioral sciences.

Medical Student Research Symposium

“Dr. Morgan taught me to think critically about problems and how to answer the questions that result from that critical thinking,” Hale said. “It’s something I’ll be able to use in the future.”

Hale and 18 other medical students presented at the 2019 Medical Student Research Symposium at the College of Medicine on May 13.

Ira Ropson, assistant dean of medical student research, said the medical student research program develops physicians who are ready to address innovation in medicine during the course of their careers.

“Medical students must be familiar with the research process in order to understand the clinical advances they will encounter during their careers,” Ropson said.

Since its founding, Penn State College of Medicine has required medical students to participate in mentored research as part of the curriculum. The medical student research program is one of the longest running in the country — and most productive. Members of the Class of 2018 were published more than 150 times.

“The particular skills and knowledge obtained from a project aren’t as important as the mindset students develop doing research,” Ropson said. “Asking good questions, developing methods to explore that question and seeing the process through from start to finish are all important skills in medicine.”

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