The Department of Medicine launches PRISM, a pipeline program for diverse students

A lab at UMass Chan Medical School is seeking candidates for a new program created to increase diversity in the health sciences.

David McManus, MD, the Professor of Medicine Richard M. Haidackpresident and professor of medicine, and Edith Mensah Otabil, clinical research coordinator at the McManus Laboratory, created a program called Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in Medicine, or PRISM.

David McManus, MD, (far right) with members of his lab

PRISM will expose undergraduate and postgraduate students from diverse backgrounds who are traditionally underrepresented in medicine to clinical research methods. Mentorship is at the heart of the Department of Medicine’s paid, non-credit clinical research opportunity, open to students and alumni of schools that are part of the Central Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium. Two students will be accepted into the program this year.

“This program is very important because people of color, or people who are underrepresented in medicine, face several systemic and historical barriers in pursuing their aspirations,” Mensah Otabil said. “They may not have the right mentorship, or people to look up to who can inspire them to reach for the stars in the STEM field they want. That’s why a program like PRISM exists to solve these problems.

Mensah Otabil knows what this kind of opportunity can mean for a budding researcher or doctor. The summer before her senior year at Holy Cross College, she heard about a lab opportunity with Dr. McManus from a former tutor.

“Dr. McManus and I have talked about paying it forward since someone helped me get into this position,” Mensah Otabil said. “So what could I do to extend that grace to others as well? person of color in STEM and realizing the underrepresentation in medicine and STEM in general, I wanted to help create a pipeline program to address this issue and increase diversity in this field.

“We believe this program is important for several reasons, not the least of which is that we want to build a clinical research group in medicine that is rich, healthy, diverse and representative of our community. It will lead to better science,” McManus said. “It provides opportunities for many people interested in clinical careers to be embedded in clinical environments with great mentors.”

The McManus Lab primarily focuses on research related to COVID-19 rapid diagnostic devices, cardiovascular disease, and digital health medicine. Among the studies Mensah Otabil is helping to coordinate include Pulsewatch, which studies the effectiveness of a smartphone/smartwatch system for detecting atrial fibrillation in stroke survivors compared to an FDA heart patch.

“There are so many studies going on in the lab,” Mensah Otabil said. “Depending on their interest, candidates selected for the PRISM program can choose from a myriad of McManus lab studies they would like to pursue while here.”

The deadline to apply for this program is March 15. Interested persons can submit an application through the UMass Chan website.

Stories related to UMass Chan News:
David McManus and Brian Lewis appointed to endowed chairs
Digital medicine expert David McManus named as chair of medicine

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