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Home > Essentia Health Foundation > Impact Like Nowhere Else > Foundation News > Summer Research Internship Program
Published on July 22, 2022
“It’s very rewarding to work with these motivated students,” says Dr. Catherine Benziger. “It’s critical to develop individuals with this skill set. If we don’t train individuals from rural communities, research about these regions simply won’t happen.”
Research plays an important role in learning how to prevent and treat illnesses. Treatments for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer Disease and, most recently, the development of the COVID-19 vaccines are examples of how research positively impacts communities. We know disparities exist in access to quality care in rural communities, but there is also a gap in research about those same communities.
With the support of the Essentia Health Foundation, Catherine Benziger, MD, MPH, Director of Research at Essentia Health Heart and Vascular Center, is trying to change that.
Modeled after a program in which she participated at the Minnesota Heart Institute Foundation, Dr. Benziger developed the Essentia Health Summer Research Internship program when she joined Essentia in 2017. The following year, two students from the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, completed the inaugural program with a better understanding of the importance of research and its impact on clinical care, especially in rural communities.
The goal of the program is to provide mentored clinical research training and to create an opportunity for students to present their research to the community—and in some cases, submit findings and present at a national conference. Throughout the six-week internship, students—largely from rural communities—learn about cardiovascular research, observe patients with a variety of cardiovascular conditions, and gain exposure to the latest diagnostics and technology.
“It’s very rewarding to work with these motivated students,” says Dr. Benziger. “It’s critical to develop individuals with this skill set. If we don’t train individuals from rural communities, research about these regions simply won’t happen.”
The Essentia Health Summer Internship program relies on the generosity of donors to support student stipends, funding for travel to national meetings, registration fees and even the costs of manuscript printing. “If selected, it is a huge benefit for a student to experience a national conference with an opportunity to meet with experts, present a manuscript and observe other research being presented,” explains Dr. Benziger.
In between his first and second year of medical school at Des Moines University, Erik Karl Engelsgjerd participated in the internship program in 2019. “I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity,” says Erik. Now starting his residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Erik says the internship was instrumental to his academic success, and he credits Dr. Benziger for such a great experience. “I felt lucky to have been part of the program and have Dr. Benziger as a mentor. She is so inspiring and made me want to work as hard as she did,” recalls Erik.
Through the Essentia Health Summer Internship program, students from rural communities have the unique opportunity of exposure to clinical research early in their careers. Explains Dr. Benziger, “National grants to support clinical research training are extremely competitive. We are enormously grateful for the support of the Foundation, which helps us train the next generation of cardiovascular experts.”
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