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Peter Soh, a second-year medical student at the University of South Alabama, recently won first place in the Lasker Foundation 2014 Essay Contest: Supporting Medical Research.
This summer, the Lasker Foundation asked the people whose future professional lives will be devoted to health and the development of new disease therapies and cures to propose innovative ways to build support and ensure funding for medical research.
The contest was open to medical school students and fellows; doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical research; graduate students in public health programs; and graduate students in other health professions programs, at U.S.-accredited institutions.
The Foundation received a total of 167 essays. “I felt honored that my essay was selected by the Lasker Foundation board members,” Soh said. “I hope that my idea initiates a conversation among those who are in the position, or will be in the position, to make policy changes regarding medical research funding. Once funding issues are addressed from a higher level, specific issues have a much better chance of resolving.”
Soh’s essay, titled “Offering Incentives for Future Scientists,” focused on increasing medical research opportunities for science students early in their education. The mechanism for this would be through research scholarships or tax incentives by the government.
“Long-term benefits can result from increased student-research experiences that would yield net benefit from these tax incentives,” Soh said. Soh also wrote on tax breaks for medical research groups to reduce financial barriers in research. “Reducing financial barriers would diversify the types of medical research foci and spur research initiatives in under-researched areas,” he said.
It was a combination of his work and educational experiences – including his research experience this past summer on stroke risk in children with sickle cell disease – that compelled Soh to write about this topic. “My experience with the USA College of Medicine’s Summer Medical Student Research Program was enriching for my education,” he said. “I appreciate that the medical school ensured the sponsorship of students who participated and that Dr. Abdul Hafeez Siddiqui, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, mentored me during my summer research.”
Soh, a native of Detroit, Mich., who hails from Dothan, Ala., received both a bachelor of arts degree in economics and a master of public health degree in health management and policy from the University of Michigan. He completed a post-baccalaureate program in pre-medicine at Northwestern University. Prior to medical school, he worked as a health care consultant and in finance.
It was later that Soh chose to pursue a medical degree at USA. “USA has a student-centered approach to learning and the curriculum focuses on integrating clinical experience with basic science starting from the first semester.”
“My religious faith has always played a role in shaping my path, and medicine is no exception,” he added. “Past medical treatment has restored my health and improved my quality of life allowing me to be more productive and ultimately happier. I want to provide this service to others,” he said. “The responsibility and autonomy that is given to physicians to treat patients is fulfilling as a career, and it is a privilege.”
Soh said he was proud to represent USA at the Lasker Awards, where he met young researchers, Lasker award winners, and other professionals in the health care industry.
Click here to view Soh’s winning essay.
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