Two Medical Students Named HHMI Fellows

Two UC San Francisco medical students have been awarded fellowships from the 2015 HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) Medical Research Fellows Program. Harjus Birk and John Huizar – both third year students in the School of Medicine – are among 68 medical and veterinary students from 37 different schools across the country who will participate in HHMI’s year long program.

John Huizar  

Harjus Birk

These are yearlong research training fellowships that enable students to take time off from medical school to pursue laboratory research full-time.

“I feel profoundly grateful to my letter writers Dr. Larry Fong of UCSF and Dr. Kathleen Collins of UC Berkeley, and most of all to my yearlong project mentor Dr. Julie Zikherman, who spent countless hours with me crafting my proposal,” said Huizar.

"Pursuing the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship has been a dream of mine since the first week of medical school. My goal is to be a physician-scientist, helping my patients in clinic and through discoveries I hope to make in the basic science laboratory,” Birk said. “When I found out I was awarded the HHMI fellowship, I was ecstatic and thankful to God, my family, and friends who have helped me along this way. Most importantly, I became excited and even more motivated for my year off, knowing that I can soon be on the verge of making scientific discoveries that could benefit many, many patients.”

The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program allows medical, dental, and veterinary students to pursue biomedical research at academic or nonprofit research institutions anywhere in the United States except the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland or other federal agencies.

The fellows put their medical school coursework on hold, and spend a year immersed in basic, translational or applied biomedical research. This year, 187 students from 76 institutions applied to the program. Each student applied with a mentor of his/her choice and submitted a research proposal.

The payment for each fellow will be comprised of a $30,000 stipend, a $5,500 research allowance, and a $5,500 fellow’s allowance.

The students will conduct a full year of mentored biomedical research training as part of the annual $2.8 million Medical Research Fellows Program. Five physician-scientists who are program alumni will serve as mentors to medical fellows in the new class. The program has funded more than 1,600 students since it was established by HHMI 26 years ago.

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