A group of rising second-year medical students spent their summer breaks learning a valuable skill set. The Department of Surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine offered a new elective course, Introduction to Clinical Research. Danielle Tatum, Ph.D., Director of Research for Tulane Surgery, developed the course with her colleagues to teach students the basics of research, from idea conception to peer review and the many steps in between.
“We wanted to give the students a foundational understanding of the good practices and highlight what to avoid with the bad practices,” said Tatum. “Many of the students had been involved in some projects where they were just told to get some data. They didn’t have an overall concept of what the study was or what the objective was. We’re about improving the quality of our research, the quality of the experience that the students have while working with us, and one way to do that is to train the students better.”
Tatum designed the course as a nine-lecture series, and students could watch it online. One student logged on late at night from her family’s home in India.
“These are smart, dedicated students,” said Tatum. “We geared it toward the rising T-2s because they have time to be learners and to start working on projects where they’re not necessarily the first author but can get substantial experience, become contributors, and earn the trust of faculty. Over the next three years, they can rise to the level where they can do a lot on a project.”
Tatum plans to expand the course next summer. The lectures will be recorded, and class time will be spent on writing workshops, data management, analysis, and more tangible skills.
“Nine lectures do not make you a researcher,” said Tatum. “It’s only a beginning. We’ve had students present abstracts at national meetings, which is a wonderful experience for the students and great exposure for Tulane. If we train them properly, we know we can continue building on this success and contribute positively to the Tulane brand.”