Making a Difference: Oregon State Alumnus Creates Medical Internship for HC Students

During her first week as a summer intern at the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Research and Reporting Program, Swechya Banskota was given access to nearly twenty-one years of cardiovascular patient data registries.

For the Honors College senior biology major, it was a lot to consider: “The research physicians gave the interns introductions to all of the patient registries at MCORRP. At first it was overwhelming, but then they told us that we would each spend the summer focusing on one registry. There was so much to learn.”

Banskota hopes to attend medical school upon graduating from Oregon State, and the summer internship program offered her the opportunity to shadow physicians and experience the daily operations of a research hospital firsthand. MCORRP is a clinical research and reporting program at the University of Michigan that seeks to create better standards of care for cardiovascular patients, both in the United States and abroad. The internship program at MCORRP allows students to work with and contribute to data registries and collection, attend physician lectures, and create and present a research project.

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Dr. Eagle and Banskota

The program also has an important connection to Oregon State University: the founding director of MCORRP, Dr. Kim Eagle, is a graduate of Oregon State.

During a trip to Oregon State a few years ago, Dr. Eagle began to consider how he might give back to his alma mater: “I was in Corvallis for the first time since I graduated, and I felt a deep sense of the place—the spirit of the students, of Corvallis, and of the state of Oregon—and I had a desire to give back to Oregon State.”

After graduating from Oregon State in general science in 1976, Dr. Eagle earned his medical degree from Tufts University and went on to serve as Associate Director of Clinical Cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital before moving to the University of Michigan in 1994. He is currently the director of the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan.

This year, Dr. Eagle funded a scholarship for one Honors College student to attend the internship program at MCORRP. Banskota was selected from a pool of outstanding applicants to be the first recipient of the scholarship, which covered airfare and provided a stipend and a housing allowance for the 10-week program.

The scholarship is part of a larger effort to make more internship and research opportunities available to Honors College students, according to LeeAnn Baker, director of student success and engagement at the Honors College. She noted the financial difficulties that often come with participating in an internship: “Many students have an interest in exploring the medical field but are unable to participate in opportunities due to financial constraints. This opportunity allows a student to explore the medical field without going into further debt. It is rare to find such an opportunity, and we hope we are able to partner with others to create similar opportunities.”

This was right in line with Dr. Eagle’s motivations in creating the internship program: “[At MCORRP] we always had a sense that there were undergraduates who were interested in health fields and learning more about clinical research,” he said. The program started eight years ago, and now includes 35 undergraduates, graduates, and medical students from 15 universities. “We saw that students had a good experience in meeting other students from different backgrounds, and we have developed a lecture project, which considers the interface of law and medicine, as well as shadowing physicians. This gives students a chance to see what medicine is really like.”

After learning more about the data registries at MCORRP, Banskota opted to study the International Registry of Acute Aortic Dissection (IRAD). She has a personal connection with aortic dissection—her grandmother was diagnosed with the condition a week before she began her internship.

“I was completely unaware of how dangerous aortic dissection is. When I realized that I could work with one of the world’s largest registries for acute aortic dissection, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. Although Banskota’s grandmother later developed a slight complication, she was able to have surgery to address the condition.

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Banskota with her MCORRP internship classmates

Banskota notes that, throughout the summer, Dr. Eagle made time to foster personal connections with each of the students in the program, and his mentorship was a highlight of the experience. When he learned about Banskota’s grandmother, who lives in her native Nepal, Dr. Eagle suggested potential topics that were related to Banskota’s personal interests and professional goals in the program. “Dr. Eagle suggested a variety of meaningful topics for my project and gave me advice throughout the internship.” She emphasized that the internship and Dr. Eagle’s mentorship allowed her to explore the medical profession in a way that she couldn’t have imagined before working with the physicians and data registries at MCORRP.

Part of the internship program involves volunteering with World Medical Relief, a nonprofit organization that collects and packages surplus medical supplies for distribution to communities in need. Seeing a diverse group of physicians working with the public to address world health issues helped Banskota shape her future plans: she now hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in public health in addition to attending medical school.

For Dr. Eagle, one of the highlights of the internship program is getting to know the students  that his scholarship helps to support: “I’m an extremely grateful graduate to Oregon State,” he said. “This scholarship is a small way of saying thank you.”

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