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The Urology Care Foundation™ Summer Medical Student Fellowship Helps Foster Longitudinal Interest in Urology

By: Sohan Shah, BS, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Posted on: 19 Jan 2024

The summer between a medical student’s first and second years is one of the only times in medical school that is truly free. Many students use that time to volunteer, conduct research, and gain exposure to specialties that interest them. I knew that I was drawn to surgery and the field of urology, but I was unsure of how to obtain a funded summer position with my home program at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. Then I read about the AUA Summer Medical Student Fellowship and met with attending physicians in the department of urology about pursuing the award. I had extensive prior clinical research experience from my undergraduate years at Johns Hopkins but missed the tangible feeling of performing basic science research and was interested in finding a principal investigator who could support me in that endeavor.

I was honored to be selected as one of the thirteen 2023 AUA Summer Medical Student Fellows and the Nathirmal N. Lalchandani, MD Research Fund awardee. This award is supporting my basic science research under the guidance of Dr Paul H. Chung, associate professor of urology and co-director of the men’s health program. We are researching methods to reduce the incidence of inflatable penile prosthesis (IPP) infections using novel techniques such as ultrasound and hydrogels, and through various prophylactic and intraoperative antimicrobial solutions. Working on this project has given me an insight into how to apply scientific methods in urologic translational research. I have gained experience in developing hypotheses, conducting experiments, analyzing data, and troubleshooting protocols. This project began because we noticed a significant number of IPP infections and there has been limited research conducted to reduce this risk. I was involved in the entire process, from conducting background research to carrying out the treatment protocols and then observing the IPP device being implanted in the penile corpora. Going through the process of trying to figure out which irrigation solutions would be most effective and trying to replicate clinical conditions in a basic science lab was an exciting and challenging process which hopefully will one day impact the practice of urology and improve patient care.

Figure. Sohan Shah (left) with his mentor and principal investigator Paul H. Chung, MD (right).

The mentorship provided by Dr Chung and the Jefferson Urology Department has increased my confidence in writing abstracts and manuscripts and, most importantly, presenting at conferences. I was invited to deliver a grand rounds presentation on my research to the Jefferson Urology Department. I subsequently had the opportunity to give an oral presentation at the Mid-Atlantic AUA Annual Meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a podium presentation at the Sexual Medicine Society of North America meeting in San Diego, California. I submitted to present my research at the AUA meeting this year in San Antonio. None of this would have been possible without the funding provided by the AUA.

While the fellowship has certainly furthered my research skills, it has also had the intangible benefit of allowing me to build connections in the amazingly welcoming Jefferson Department of Urology. While conducting basic science research during the summer and fall, the department encouraged me to work closely with the 2 research fellows and perform clinical research with them. I attended weekly research meetings with multiple attendings in the department and had the opportunity to shadow in both the clinic and the operating room. This exposure to the field has strengthened my desire to join such a diverse and dynamic specialty. Being awarded one of the AUA’s Summer Medical Student Fellowships has been an incredible experience; it inspired me to be innovative in addressing clinical challenges, taught me important research skills, and has led me to seriously consider a future career as an academic urologist.