UW-Madison Launches Surgery Research Program for Teens

Doris Duke Charitable FoundationThanks to a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, high school students who may become the first in their families to attend college will be able to conduct medical research on surgery topics this summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Our overall goal is to interest the best and the brightest in careers in medicine, especially careers in surgery,” said Dr. Herb Chen, head of the general surgery division at UW Hospital and Clinics. “They may have an idea of what a surgeon does from television, but we want them to see how surgeons advance medical knowledge through research, patient education and clinical work as well.”

The plan is to begin the program with five students per summer. Students in the surgery program will be selected from those enrolled in UW-Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) program. PEOPLE is a pre-college pipeline for students of color and low-income students, most of whom could become the first in their families to attend college.

The UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) was one of nine institutions nationwide to receive grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to establish its Clinical Research Experiences for High School Students (CREHSS). The foundation launched the program because minorities remain underrepresented in medical research careers.

About 20 members of the UW surgery faculty will mentor student researchers. Their expertise ranges from vascular surgery to reconstructive surgery research. Students will participate in research seminars with faculty and learn the principles for clinical research using human subjects, as well as participate in individual projects.

Chen says that the high school students also will interact with UW medical students taking part in the summer Shapiro Research program, as well as with surgical residents. Chen says he participated in a similar program when he was a high school student in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and knows how early exposure to research can help shape students’ career goals.

“The Surgery Research Program is one of the latest and most exciting additions to the college major and career exploration internships offered through the PEOPLE program with the help of our UW-Madison campus partnerships,” PEOPLE Executive Director Jacqueline DeWalt said. “This partnership in particular is a pivotal step toward fulfilling our goal to introduce PEOPLE scholars to majors, research, graduate school and full careers not only in medicine, but all of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas.”