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Research in Medicine Flash Talks creates online bridge between graduate and medical students

Flash talks allow grad students to present their research to med students classes

Research in Medicine Flash Talks, an initiative to connect medical and graduate students, will take place online this semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The program, launched by the Graduate Student Council and the Medical Student Senate, allows graduate students to present at the start or end of medical school classes on topics that align with medical students’ course schedule. The talks are between 10 and 15 minutes long and are followed by question-and-answer sessions to increase faculty and student engagement. 

GSC President Kathryn Thompson coordinates the Flash Talks with Danielle Charles-Chauvet, chair of institutional affairs for the MSS.

Prior to the pandemic, the talks took place at the Medical School. “It was really awesome to have everyone in the auditorium listening to the graduate students,” Thompson said. But due to public health circumstances, the talks are moving fully remote this semester, she added.

“The talks are mainly for first year medical students to merge the clinical and basic biomedical science content that we’re learning to the research and work that is being done by graduate students,” Charles-Chauvet said. 

Graduate students can sign up to present a Flash Talk and must provide a brief overview of their presentation topic. Thompson then sends the applications to the MSS where Charles-Chauvet reaches out to medical students to arrange the presentation. 

“It’s really collaborative with the (GSC) and the senate,” Charles-Chauvet said. 

“Geographically, the Medical School is in the downtown area, and many of the graduate programs are centered on College Hill,” Charles-Chauvet said. The Flash Talks program has “the ability to merge the two campuses.” 

Thompson echoed Charles-Chauvet, saying the program “is a great way to bridge the graduate school and medical school community. Even though medical students are graduate students, they’re on a different schedule, they’re down the Hill at the Medical School and sometimes it can feel disconnected.” 

The new online format is convenient, but “networking is a component that is a bit lost,” Charles-Chauvet said. “One hopes that in future talks people are still able to build community and feel connected to speakers and one another.” 

Graduate students benefit greatly from the connection as well, Thompson said, because it gives students the opportunity to practice sharing their research for job opportunities or to the general public.

The talks cover diverse subjects, attracting graduate students from neuroscience, history and humanities, among other departments, to provide a new perspective on the material medical students are learning in their classes every day, Thompson said. 

Maggie Unverzagt Goddard, an American Studies PhD candidate whose research intersects with the history of medicine, had presented a Flash Talk in November 2019 before the program transitioned online. Her talk explored how the history of gynecology and the speculum relates to contemporary issues in medical ethics. 

Goddard has been working alongside faculty, administrators and students at the Medical School to make changes within the medical school curriculum that integrate racial justice and health equity as core competencies. “I believe that diversity and inclusion demand interdisciplinary, cross-campus collaborations,” she said.

“Practical opportunities to connect across campuses are so essential — for graduate students' professional development, to complement the medical school curriculum and to use our collective strengths to enhance our work, especially through critical attention to ethics and care,” Goddard said, “I'm grateful for the GSC and MSS for piloting this program.”



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