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Pipeline program for students underrepresented in medicine seeks new applicants

Participants in the first year of the Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in Medicine program with their mentors.

Now recruiting for a second year, the UMass Chan Medical School Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in Medicine (PRISM) program offers clinical research and mentorship opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students from Worcester-area colleges.

Five participants were selected for the 2022-23 application cycle, including Tatiana Thompson, who has a neuroscience degree from the College of the Holy Cross and aspires to become a psychiatrist or dermatologist.

“I believe there aren’t many psychiatrists and dermatologists who are women of color,” said Thompson, a research coordinator in the lab of Brian Silver, MD, the Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research and professor of neurology. She is Jamaican and the first in her family to go to college. “I’d like to help those who look like me and identify with me because I know how it feels to not have representation when looking for help.”

David McManus, MD'02, MSc'12, the Richard M. Haidack Professor of Medicine, chair and professor of medicine, and Edith Mensah Otabil, clinical research coordinator in the McManus lab, created the pipeline program to promote greater diversity in the health sciences.

“It warms my heart seeing the professional and personal growth of these PRISM research coordinators,” said Mensah Otabil. “I feel like a proud parent. Hearing their stories makes me feel fulfilled, like I’m doing my best to address the underrepresentation of folks from diverse backgrounds in medicine and STEM. They are the future!”

PRISM participant Daniel Mbusa coordinates studies addressing blood thinner usage disparity in the lab of Alok Kappor, MD, associate professor of medicine. Patients with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, are frequently prescribed blood thinners to prevent strokes.

“We’re gathering stories from Black patients about their experiences with blood thinners, hoping they can encourage more Black patients with AFib to use blood thinners since there’s an underuse of anticoagulant in the Black community,” Mbusa said.

Mbusa was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Kampala, Uganda, as a refugee. At 13, he and his family relocated to Worcester. Mbusa has a degree in biology and biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Camarlin Franco, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, grew up in Worcester. She graduated from Worcester State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She’s earning her master’s degree in biotechnology at her alma mater while serving as a full-time research coordinator through PRISM.

“The PRISM program is special because it reflects the incorporation of community and working as a cohort,” said Franco. “It provides learning and mentorship that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.”

Kamran Noorishirazi is a clinical research coordinator in the Department of Medicine who mentors the pipeline participants. Noorishirazi feels personally connected to PRISM’s mission as the son of Iranian immigrants.

“I feel a strong tie to my immigrant and minority roots and strive to help uplift these communities as much as I can, primarily through educational and professional mentorship.”

The deadline to apply is March 31. Applicants can submit their materials through the UMass Chan website.