Seven high school students from Clovis spent part of their summer studying biomedicine.
They presented their biomedical research, focused on Valley health issues, to their families, peers and mentors at a culmination ceremony Aug. 3.
The students, alongside four other Central Valley high school seniors, celebrated the completion of a two-month long UCSF Fresno Summer Biomedical Internship in the medical center’s downtown auditorium.
The evening began with a welcome from UCSF Fresno SBI committee member and professor, Dr. Donna Hudson.
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“Tonight we honor the 29th UCSF Fresno Summer Biomedical Internship Program,” said Hudson. “Established in 1988, our program is the first and only of its kind here in the Central Valley.”
The 11 students were selected out of 92 applicants based on academic merit, questionnaire responses, interviews and letters of recommendation. Hudson went on to explain the pipeline program, which aims to prepare youth for careers in health and medicine through mentorship with a faculty member at UCSF Fresno.
“This program provides students hands-on biomedical research experience, while introducing them to careers in health and medicine,” added SBI coordinator Tiffany Robinson. “These students were able to experience things many of their peers won’t until medical school, much later.”
Robinson acknowledged SBI alumni, mentors, donors and committee members before introducing UCSF professor Dr. Kent Yamaguchi, who presented each student and their given topic of study.
The seven Clovis Unified students included Mizna Akbar, Simon Cao and Maya Srikanth from Clovis North High School, Alexander Ewing and Manjit Ruprem from Buchanan High School, Faith Bundros from Clovis High School and Allison Heyne from Clovis West High School.
Presentations addressed issues such as cancer, genetic medicine, surgery and more. The studies were performed at one of three locations: Fresno State, Community Regional Medical Center and the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research.
Each student provided a subject overview for the audience and followed with their hypotheses, methods and results. At the conclusion of the presentations, they expressed tremendous gratitude for the program, the mentorship and the many lessons learned.
“Being able to work with amazing doctors, like my mentor Dr. Daya Upadhyay, was incredible,” shared Mizna Akbar, who hopes to attend the UC Berkeley after high school and eventually pursue a career in the medical field.
“We had access to resources and opportunities for cancer research that would have never been possible without a program like this,” she said.
Akbar and fellow Bronco, Maya Srikanth, dove into lung cancer research over the summer.
“This internship helped me realize my passion for biomedical research and all the analytical aspects of the field,” said Srikanth, who also hopes to attend a four-year university in California.
Srikanth explained, in addition to the daily mentorship, she enjoyed learning techniques in data analysis, investigative research and how to put together a professional presentation for biomedical research.
“To work at this level and be at the forefront of real research was amazing,” she added.
Manjit Ruprem participated under the guidance of Dr. Vijay Balasubramanian on a project titled Stimulant Associated Disease Database.
“This program aided my interests, but I never expected to get so much hands-on experience,” he said. “After high school, I plan to attend a four-year university to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.”
After sharing her slides, Allison Heyne expressed appreciation for having the opportunity to work with a variety of medical professionals and witnessing firsthand the routine of a physician in the emergency room.
“I was able to see how difficult and rewarding the job can be,” she said. “Thank you for welcoming me into your medical family.”
Since its establishment, more than 200 high-achieving students have graduated from the Summer Biomedical Research Internship Program. Many of them are now health professionals who have returned to the San Joaquin Valley.
Before certificates were distributed, Yamaguchi closed the ceremony honoring the students’ hard work and bright futures ahead. He told the young students, “You now understand and speak the medical language, and that is a great privilege that I hope you choose to continue to use.”
Students from Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties are eligible to apply for UCSF Fresno Summer Biomedical Internship Program. Applications open in December and close the first week of February.
“I encourage anyone who is considering medicine as a career, both as a physician or in research to apply,” Robinson said. “Anyone who wants that in-depth look, and chance to work up-close and personal, one-on-one with a mentor, I highly recommend it.”