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Taking a break: CRS Scholars take time to explore career interests

By Jon Coomer
July 2009

Canby Robinson Scholars, Natalie Jacobowski and Emily Kendall, are expanding their overall educational experience by taking a break between their third and fourth years of medical school to pursue areas of interest that will shape their careers in medicine.

Kendall developed an interest in global infectious disease issues while taking courses in biology and public health at Harvard University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. It was this global health interest that led her to medical school at Vanderbilt.

She is currently in Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting research at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research. She is participating in the Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars program, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and administered by Vanderbilt.

Kendall is studying the immune response to cholera, with the aim of understanding the protective aspects of the immunologic memory that develop after natural infection, and designing a more effective cholera vaccine.

“This year has been invaluable in so many ways,” she said. “Every week I meet people who are doing fascinating work in fields that interest me. I have learned a good deal of immunology and am developing a variety of useful research skills.”

After graduating from Vanderbilt, she plans to pursue an academic medical career with research applications and collaborations in the developing world.

“Experiencing first-hand the unique challenges of both research and clinical medicine in this resource-poor setting has been instructive and will be important to understand in my future work,” she said.

Jacobowski entered medical school with an interest in pediatric oncology, but later became intrigued by child neurology during her neurology rotation. She plans to use these and other interest areas to become a clinician-educator after graduating from Vanderbilt.

During this past year, she has been engaged in a medical education fellowship, in which she serves as an Emphasis adviser for a group of 10 first-year medical students, teaches in small group organ recitals, lectures in the second-year pathology component of the Disease Diagnosis and Therapeutics course, and develops tutorial videos for the neuroscience component of the Brain and Behavior course.

She is also performing research on palliative care and end-of-life education at the medical student level, conducting a national survey of academic deans and fourth-year students. She participates in committees and other aspects of the administrative side of education, serving as co-chair of the Student Curriculum Committee and attending undergraduate medical education meetings and workshops.

“We are fortunate to be taught by outstanding professors and after the significant impact some of them have had on me and my personal and professional development, I want to be able to do the same for others,” she said.

“This experience has been incredibly valuable to pursue my interest in teaching,” she said. “By being engaged in direct teaching, development of educational materials, education research, and education administration, I’ve received diverse exposure, and consequently learned a broad range of lessons about the many facets of medical student education. The year has helped to confirm my desire to continue to pursue this clinician-educator interest.”

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