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Image from USF Health Research Day 2024.

Research outcome teams enhance research opportunities at MCOM

In an effort to enhance and expand the research capacity, and accommodate the increasing number of students conducting research, the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Office of Research, Innovation & Scholarly Endeavors (RISE) created Specialty-Specific Research Outcomes Teams (SSROT).

These ‘vertical learning’ teams, specialty-specific teams, match medical students with resident physicians, fellows in training, and attending physicians on faculty at MCOM.  This network better defines and sustains a pipeline of impactful research opportunities as well as invaluable mentorship.

Rahul Mhaskar, MD, PhD, professor and associate dean of medical student research for the Morsani College of Medicine, spearheaded in 2020 the concept of a more collaborative research environments with more students and physicians with similar research interests.  

 SSROTs have been instrumental in helping medical students gain access to research opportunities.  Since 2018, 95% of MCOM medical students have engaged in scholarly work during their medical school tenure.  SSROT’s have led to a sharp increase in medical students presenting at national and international meetings, and authoring peer-reviewed publications.  

Benefits of medical student research experience:

-              Higher first-choice match rate for senior medical students

-              Higher number of competitive residency applicants

-              Increased number of first-author publication

-              Incremental increases in funding for research

rahul mhaskar

Rahul Mhaskar, MD, PhD, professor and associate dean of medical student research for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

RISE helps the attending physicians, residents, and fellows design projects.  Then, they help match medical students to the projects based on interest.  This concept has led to a sharp increase in the number of awards and authorships for medical students.

In 2023-2024, medical students reported 357 first-author abstracts, 196 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and 87 awards.

For medical students, residents, and fellows, SSROTs offer an opportunity to resume building, and overall broadening and enhancing the medical school experience.  Sarah Alfieri, a third-year medical student in the Surgery Research Outcome Team (SORT), has been involved with the surgery SSROT since her first year.  The experiences and knowledge she’s gained from physicians and more senior medical students helped shape her path through medical school, she said.  She recently received her first first-author publication in the Journal of Global Surgical Education on her research exploring a transition to practice curriculum for surgery residents as a guide to early career success.

“It can be challenging early for new medical students to get involved because most students don’t have the knowledge base needed. But, once a student gets on a project, the knowledge and experience gained from learning from physicians and senior medical students was invaluable,” Alfieri said.  

Alfieri said flexibility is also an added benefit to being part of an SSROT.  Students can pick and choose the projects they wish to be part of, which is important when balancing a rigorous medical school schedule and conducting research.

Research experience on a residency application could be the difference in helping a medical student match to their top residency choice.  Karim Hanna, MD, MCOM class of 2014 alumni, associate professor in the USF Department of Family Medicine, and lead physician of the A.I. in Medicine research outcome team, said the landscape of medical school and the level of competitiveness has drastically changed for the better, since when he was a medical student nearly 15 years ago.   USF Health has always fostered an environment of mentoring medical students.  Research outcome teams allow for that mentoring to be done in a team environment where ideas can be passed around, and new collaborations can be formed with the guidance and resources in place to help medical students be more successful.

“Fifteen years ago, it was rare to see a medical student with any publications,” Dr. Hanna said. “These days, it seems that publications are needed to stay competitive.  The students push us as much as we push them.  As clinicians, we need to know that we’re doing more than just coming in and seeing patients.  It’s about building the academic environment for our students.”

In the future, Dr. Mhaskar looks to continue building the capacity of research opportunities for medical students and, eventually, into the larger research mission of USF Health.  He is currently working to increase the offerings within MCOM.  SSROTs in anesthesiology, medical education, radiation oncology, and trauma surgery are the next likely teams to be established.

Dr. Mhaskar said the next evolution of the concept is creating interdisciplinary teams, allowing USF Health students from different colleges to collaborate on research projects using the SSROT model.

Current SSROT offerings and attending physician leads:

-              General Surgery – Christopher Ducoin, MD

-              Vascular Surgery – K. Dean Arnaoutakis, MD, MBA

-              Ear, Nose, and Throat – Matthew Mifsud, MD

-              Neurosurgery – Siviero Agazzi, MD, Maxim Mokin, MD, PhD

-              Internal Medicine – Shanu Gupta, MD, FACP; Sherri Huang, MD, PhD (med/peds resident)

-              Family Medicine (A.I. focus) – Karim Hanna, MD

-              Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine – William Miller, MD

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About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.