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CIMAR Faculty Support Virtual ‘Mini’ Med School to Engage High Schoolers

A screenshot from one of 13 small groups, this one was led by Hilary Giles, a rising second-year medial student at the Tufts University School of Medicine and  a teaching assistant for the Mini-Med program. Ms. Giles and the high school students are shown participating in the “Stan lab.”

July 31, 2020

Rima Mycynek

This month marked the first ever Tufts Mini-Med School, a short, intensive (and this time, online) program giving high schoolers the opportunity to work closely with medical students and learn from the medical doctors, veterinarians, public health experts, and basic science researchers who teach in real-life med school—including several CIMAR faculty.

Despite having to pivot from a residential program to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Tufts Mini-Med School boasted over 700 applicants for just 125 slots. The high schoolers attended two weeks of immersive programing to capture the medical school experience, including four major strands of activities: remote lectures, problem-based medical case studies, a “TED Talk”-style filmmaking capstone project, and a wet lab with kits sent to them at their homes.

“The hands-on laboratory allowed students to simulate a clinical diagnostic lab experience to assess antimicrobial susceptibility and resistance of a culture from our character, Stan, who gets very sick,” said program co-director Dr. Carol Bascom-Slack. Dr. Bascom-Slack is a CIMAR Core Faculty member and an Assistant Research Professor of Medical Education at Tufts where she leads the Prevalence of Antimicrobial Resistant microbes in the Environment (PARE) Project for undergraduates.

One of many frames of the “all-group” gala on July 24, Tufts Mini-Med School’s last day. In addition to program directors Drs. Jacque and Bascom-Slack, five of the 13 teaching assistants appear (Kayla White, Alessandra De Franco, Timothy van Dover, Kristen Valdez, and Allie Neeson).

According to one of the Tufts Mini-Med School students, whose exit survey responses have been anonymized at the request of the program, “I was able to do hands-on work and experience lab work. I got to see firsthand bacteria growth and solve Stan’s case.”

Another student added that they were pleased to experience personal instruction: “My favorite part of the program was the sense of community amongst the participants, especially in the small groups! It was nice to bond with people, despite the virtual platform.”

“Perhaps most importantly for the students, the lab, case studies, and capstone project were all done in small groups overseen by 13 amazing medical students from Tufts that acted as near-peer teaching assistants,” said program co-director Dr. Berri Jacque, a CIMAR Core Faculty member and an Associate Professor of Medical Education and director of Tufts University School of Medicine Center for Science Education.

For their capstone projects, the students recorded “TED Talk”-style videos on a topic of their choice from the program connecting the science of infectious diseases and immunology to a health topic of personal and societal significance. Once finalized, some of those videos will be available at the end of this article.

Tufts Mini-Med School dovetails with CIMAR’s mission in that it is uniquely interdisciplinary in its One Health approach. The program draws on an array of schools beyond the School of Medicine dedicated to the health science and medicine at Tufts University, including: the School of Dental Medicine, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The program emphasized infectious diseases and immunology, with examples drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic. The students also learned about multi-drug resistance/antimicrobial resistance and cutting-edge approaches researchers are developing in response.

Five CIMAR faculty in addition to Program Directors Dr. Berri Jacque and Dr. Bascom-Slack  gave lectures on the following topics:

“Clinical Care and Antimicrobial Resistance”
CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center and an internationally renowned expert on antimicrobial resistance.

“The Power of Words: Tips for Communicating Science”
“One Health: Connection of Animals, Our Environment and Public Health”
Dr. Maya Nadimpalli, Research Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Tufts University School of Engineering. Dr. Nadimpalli uses genomic and epidemiological approaches to understand how exposures to food, animals, and the environment can impact human colonization and infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, particularly in low-resource settings.


“Molecular Epidemiology: Tracing an Outbreak”
Dr. Roberto Viau Colindres, Attending Physician at Tufts Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Viau specializes in gram negative resistance research and antibiotic stewardship.

“Forecasting and Predicting Disease Trends and Outbreaks”
Dr. Elena Naumova, Professor and Chair of the Division of Nutrition Data Sciences, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition.  Dr. Naumova studies emerging and re-emerging diseases, environmental epidemiology, molecular biology, nutrition, and growth.

“Antimicrobial Stewardship in Small Animal Veterinary Medicine: Life as a Clinician-Scientist”
Dr. Annie Wayne, Assistant Professor of Emergency & Critical Care, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Wayne studies antimicrobial stewardship in dogs and cats, embracing One Health in her research. She collaborates with Tufts Medical Center’s Infection Control Team who work on several joint research projects to apply antimicrobial stewardship efforts used in human hospitals to companion animal medicine.

Program Directors Jacque and Bascom Slack agree that the program was a success, despite the last-minute shift in format. They plan to bring Tufts Mini-Med School back next summer.

Below, we will post student capstone video projects as they become available.