AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020

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For Students, By Students: The National Student Neurosurgery and Neurology Research Conference

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In a sea of nationwide conferences that cater to the edification of experienced practitioners, a small group of medical students at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University (WAMSBU) is trying to shake things up – the AANS Chapter.

Culture of Research and Teaching

During the 2018-19 academic year, the first year as an established medical student chapter of the AANS, the chapter’s goal was to strengthen the culture of teaching and research support for students interested in neurosurgery. While many of us had experienced firsthand the value of presenting research at large conferences, these conferences were not primarily designed for medical students. As such, the majority of the material discussed far surpassed student-level knowledge: a simultaneously inspiring and intimidating experience! With the support and mentorship of Ziya L. Gokaslan, MD, FAANS, chair of neurosurgery, students sought to create a conference designed specifically for medical students, by medical students.

Our Day to Shine

On January 7, 2020, 50 medical students from institutions across the United States flocked to Providence, Rhode Island for the second annual Student Neurosurgery & Neurology Research Conference (SNRC), hosted by the AANS Medical Student Chapter at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. At this year’s conference, over 30 students presented original research in both poster and oral format. The day included keynote presentations by prominent clinical research faculty at Brown in the neurosciences. Petra Klinge, MD, PhD, IFAANS (Neurosurgery) and Judy Liu, MD (Neurology) discussed their respective journeys in pursuing both research and clinical medicine. SNRC also featured hands-on clinical skills workstations to practice drilling, lumbar puncture techniques and suturing led by neurology and neurosurgery residents. Our hope is that the SNRC begins to form the foundation of an interconnected network of medical students across the country.

Beyond Research

The SNRC, aside from being a valuable learning experience for attendees, is an opportunity for medical students to connect and support each other in the long, challenging journey towards becoming a neurosurgeon. The standard medical school curriculum does not afford students much exposure to neurosurgery. In addition, perceived hierarchies can lead to medical students’ hesitation to engage directly with residents and faculty.

When designing the conference, the hope was to foster a low-stakes environment where residents and faculty can interact with students one-on-one in a setting explicitly designed to cater to medical students. The chapter views the conference as an opportunity for neurosurgery to become more inclusive in its efforts to attract the best future clinicians. For students underrepresented in the field, such as women, minorities and students from medical schools without neurosurgical departments, early exposure to neurology and neurosurgery research can be incredibly impactful; this conference represents just such an opportunity.

SNRC has grown in the short time since its inception. Creating the conference has been a collaboration between medical students, residents and clinical faculty. We hope to build and strengthen the world of medical students engaged in neurologic and neurosurgical research, an effort that can only yield positive results for the next generation of clinicians.

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