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Undergraduate Mentorship Program Inspires Northeastern Student to Create Educational Opportunities
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Melanie Barbini, a junior at Northeastern University, and a mentee in the 2017-2018 APSA Undergraduate Mentorship Program was inspired by the program to organize an event at her institution to learn more about the MD/PhD track and network with established physician-scientists. She will present her work during the APSA Annual Meeting at the business meeting to highlight how the Mentorship Program has impacted her.

Barbini is a behavioral neuroscience major in her third year at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She is very involved in her community and at her school, through volunteering at Massachusetts General Hospital and holding leadership positions with Asian-American Students in Action (AASIA) and a professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. After graduating, she will join an MD/PhD program with the ultimate goal of specializing in pediatric neurology.

She participated in the 2017-2018 Undergraduate Mentorship Program and her mentor was Anjali Jacob, an MD/PhD student at Boston University. Throughout the program, Jacob emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships with people who have similar goals and interests. When asked what inspired Barbini to organize an MD/PhD panel and networking event, she said: "Science is all about collaboration and learning to share information for the betterment of a larger cause and it all starts by having a conversation and learning about others around you...[B]y speaking with my mentor I realized how important it is to work in more interdisciplinary fields and find ways to integrate what is seen in clinic with what we work on in the lab. Collaborations between these very different findings are how we are going to advance medicine, and I hoped that by organizing this event, that I would be able to get more people interested in the MD/PhD program."

The MD/PhD Panel and Networking Event, which happened in March, was a great success, with students in attendance from both Northeastern University as well as Wentworth Institute of Technology. Barbini wanted to feature a diverse panel of individuals at varying stages of their MD/PhD training. The invited panelists were two established physician-scientists: Alexander Rotenberg, MD, PhD (neurology, Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School) and Anne O'Donnell, MD, PhD (genetics and pediatrics, Broad Center for Mendelian Genomics and Boston Children's Hospital); one recent graduate: Daniel Zeve, MD, PhD (pediatric endocrinology, Boston Children's Hospital); and two current MD/PhD students: Chinaemere Igwebuike (Boston University) and Anjali Jacob (Boston University).

Barbini plans to keep up the momentum and host an event geared towards women who are interested in the MD/PhD program with speakers to empower, inspire, and educate undergraduate female students, an underrepresented demographic amongst physician-scientists. Another goal is to have MD/PhDs from different STEM fields discuss their bench-to-bedside research to educate students on what it means to be a physician-scientist. Barbini has been awarded a travel grant to present her work at the 2018 APSA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. She will speak to the success of the Undergraduate Mentorship Program by highlighting the panel event and discussing her other initiatives.