Student Research Interns Are Hope for World

It might not be Europe with Spider-Man battling a super villain, but one of the 10 young people spending the summer at Queen’s as research interns could potentially change the world. The Queen’s Summer Research Intern (SRI) program has been a time-honored tradition at Queen’s for over 10 years and is open to undergraduate college students interested in the medical field and biomedical research. The program is co-sponsored by the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health, with five students reporting to NHH mentors and five to QMC mentors.

A committee of Queen’s research physicians make the final decisions on acceptance and assigns students mentors in alignment with their interests. The 10-week program runs June through mid-August. Over the course of the summer, in addition to assisting their mentors, the students take classes on clinical research skills, attend medical seminars and conferences, participate in unique, medically-related cultural experiences, and tour the medical facilities and departments at Queen’s. So far this summer, they have already worked in the lo‘i at UH, the medicinal garden at JABSOM, and assisted in taking vitals at Papakolea Community Center.

The Queen’s participants, in no particular order, are Katriel Wong, Nina Krupa , Eduardo Manzano, Makoa Mau, and Erin Evangelista. The UHM NHH interns are Julie Chung, Dong Yoon Kim, Miles Miki, Annalisa Okimoto and Sara Suzuki. Here is a sampling of their projects.

Makoa is a senior at the University of Puget Sound with prior experience at Queen’s as a volunteer. He liked the interaction with staff members and saw the intern program as a great opportunity to take it one step further. His project involves cardiovascular risk and HIV, under the supervision of Dominic Chow, MD, PhD, MPH.

“I had done a lot of research in the past, but none of it clinical,” explained Eduardo Manzano, graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University. He volunteered in the HPU biology lab during the past school year and discovered an affinity for the clinical approach. Eduardo is working on a project involving cancer and chemotherapy with Jared Acoba, MD.

Several of the students spoke about their interest in resolving disparity issues and access to health care for the homeless and underserved population, and their projects and interests reflect that. Sara Suzuki, a junior at University of Nevada – Reno, hopes to gain valuable experience she can eventually take back to her home community on Maui.

“It’s a given as a doctor I’d want to serve the community,” said Miles Miki, a Kamehameha graduate and senior at Washington State University. “But I also want to perpetuate the culture. And I think it’s important to serve all of Hawaii’s ethnicities and cultures equally.”

Dong Yoon Kim is a junior at the University of San Francisco working with Alika Maunakea, MD, and Rafel Peres-David, MD, on a diabetes centered project. Volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter near his college campus taught him so much about the underserved population and fueled his desire to seek solutions to help them.

At orientation, UH Manoa junior Nina Krupa mentioned she was looking forward to connecting with all of the interns for classes and cultural field trips, including a full day visit to Kalaupapa on Molokai. The trip includes learning the site’s history from Kalani Brady, MD, meeting remaining residents and staff, a swim in the ocean, and hopefully picking salt from the historic ponds. An enthusiastic mid-term report from Nina gave a quick run-down on her very scientific PET Imaging project and pronouncement of her mentors (PhDs Aaron Cullen and Clay Wakano) as “fantastic,” and the whole program “so interesting and really fun.”

The students will give poster presentations of their finished projects on Thursday, August 8 in the Queen’s Conference Center, room 200, from 12:30 – 2:30 pm. All are invited to attend.