Partnership With MUSC Creates Pipeline for Aspiring Surgical Scientists

When Kirsten Snyder saw the Pipeline for Aspiring Surgical Scientists (PASS) internship listed on the Honors College Hub, she knew it was the perfect opportunity for her.

Offering an immersive 10-week laboratory and clinical research experience under the mentorship of Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery faculty, the PASS program was designed for College of Charleston Honors College students considering careers in surgery or as a medical scientist.

“For those thinking about pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. or M.D./M.S. graduate program, this is a great chance to gain practical experience,” says Honors College Dean Beth Meyer-Bernstein, who helped develop the program, which was initiated by Dr. David B. Adams, distinguished university professor of surgery at MUSC and vice chair of the Honors College Advisory Board. Dr. Adams connected Meyer-Bernstein with his former colleagues in the Department of Surgery, and together they created this unique opportunity for undergraduate students. “This really has the potential to serve as a life-altering springboard for their future.”

The PASS program started this summer: Making up the inaugural cohort of PASS interns, Snyder and fellow Honors students Isabel Muehleman and Caitlin Watts started conducting research in the MUSC labs and job shadowing their mentors on June 1. Thanks to the generosity of College of Charleston donors, all three students received a grant to help support their work at MUSC through the newly enhanced Honors Summer Enrichment Program. After a series of one-on-one meetings to help choose their ideal co-collaborators, the students and the Department of Surgery faculty members began their research/mentorship experience.

Muehleman is working in Dr. Michael Yost’s regenerative medicine bioengineering lab under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Grace Dennis-Little. Her project is evaluating novel biopolymers for their use in applications such as surgical site infection, radiation therapy and cardiovascular disease.

Watts is working with Dr. Vinayak Rohan, associate professor of transplant surgery, and Dr. Derek DuBay, the Fitts-Raja Professor of Surgery and division chief of transplant surgery. Watts’ research with Dr. Rohan focuses on the effects of undergoing a gastric bypass/sleeve surgery on patients with prior renal transplants and how that will influence their kidney function and long-term transplant results. Her research with Dr. DuBay encompasses social determinants and kidney transplant outcomes.

Snyder, who has been conducting research since her junior year of high school, is shadowing Dr. Satish Nadig, transplant surgeon and scientist, and working in his research lab under the guidance of Dr. Dinesh Jaishankar. She is most intrigued with Dr. Nadig’s immunology research on how endothelial cells of transplanted organs — the cells on the inside of an organ’s blood vessels — are affected during the transplant process.

To read more about this story, check out the full article by Darcie Goodwin at The College Today.

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