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Scholarly Concentrations begins during the winter of the students’ first year and concludes in February of their second year, with much of the work taking place over the summer when formal classes have ended. The fundamental goal of this course is to expose students to the scholarly fields, but to also cultivate a sense of entrepreneurship by allowing them to build their own research project. In Scholarly Concentrations, where creativity and taking risks are highly encouraged, students prioritize their own interests and take ownership of a project, seeing it through from start to finish.
Scholarly Concentrations is broken down into five themes: basic science, clinical research, medical humanities/bioethics/healing arts, history of medicine, and public health/community service. From these options, students pick an area of interest, and with the help from a faculty mentor, begin to shape their project. Projects range from cellular-level research to tackling international public health issues. Students are strongly encouraged to be as creative as they want. For example, current medical student, Alex Harding, was inspired by a classroom anecdote about gin and tonics to conduct research on a water purification method with vast lifesaving potential. Harding’s research showed that lime juice and sunlight can virtually eradicate E. coli in drinking water in about 30 minutes. (Read more about his project here.) Julia Cromwell, class of 2015, chose to conduct her research on Autopsy and the Influenza Epidemic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1918, falling into the history of medicine concentration. This is a time where students can take control of their learning and, perhaps, delve into something they have either had previous interest in or have never before explored.
Mary Catherine Beach, M.D., the course director, has the opportunity to interact with students early on, helping them hone in on a project idea and then matching them with a faculty mentor. There are eleven faculty members across all five concentrations who were chosen to be part of the course’s mentor pool because of their strong commitment to and enthusiasm for students and teaching.
“The fun part [about Scholarly Concentrations] – you find something the students are interested in and help them develop projects that they’re excited about,” says Dr. Beach, who has been a School of Medicine faculty member since 2002 and in 2007 was given the opportunity to develop this course for the new Genes to Society curriculum.
Scholarly Concentrations strives to help students generate new knowledge, cultivate their entrepreneurship skills, supports creativity and gives students the methodical expertise they need to complete their project successfully.
The culmination of Scholarly Concentrations is Medical Student Research Day, a yearly formal showcase held in February for medical students to share their research accomplishments with the wider Hopkins community. Many of them go on to be published in journals and other publications. It is quite evident the excitement and pride students feel for their project. And when you see that, you know that Scholarly Concentrations achieved its purpose.