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February 3, 2012 - USA Medical Student Benefits From Research Opportunities

It was Luke Wiggins’ initial exposure to research during a medical student summer research program at the University of South Alabama – supported in part by an American Heart Association Grant Fellowship – that spurred his interest in research and led him to pursue the M.D. with research honors program at the USA College of Medicine.

Wiggins, now a fourth-year medical student, continues to conduct cardiovascular research in the lab of his mentor Dr. Petra Rocic, assistant professor of biochemistry at USA. He said the American Heart Association provides research opportunities for medical students and encourages young physicians to consider careers as physician-scientists.

“My experience in research supported by the AHA served as an introduction to the basics of medical research,” said Wiggins, who will graduate from the medical school in May with research honors. “Time in the lab allowed the acquisition of skills required to carry out basic science research and gave me the opportunity to analyze and present findings.”

The research Wiggins has conducted throughout his time in medical school has led to subsequent research awards, including the 2011 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship presented by Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

“My experience in research thus far has enhanced my medical education by improving my understanding of how research is conducted,” Wiggins said. “I have come to find that time spent in research during medical school has not taken away from my clinical experience, but has added to it.”

Following his AHA research experience, Wiggins has applied to residency programs in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery and is interested in training to become an academic cardiothoracic surgeon.

“These research experiences have equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue future opportunities in research during residency training,” he said, “and have guided my interest for a career in academic surgery.”

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