Fri, 04/21/2017

On Tuesday, April 11, Professor of Microbiology and Pre-Medical Advisor Wilmore C. Webley talked to students about biomedical research and its impact on not just your resume for medical school, but in other people’s lives. In particular, he began by discussing his own research: how Chlamydia pneumoniae plays a role in worsening pediatric asthma. His findings and subsequent solutions led to many of the patients in his study having their asthma alleviated, or cured altogether.

And that, Webley argues, is the most important part of research: helping people. It’s also the most important part about being a doctor, which is why medical schools tend to take students who have done research during their undergraduate careers.

However, Webley made sure to emphasize that the prestige of what institution you do your research at does not matter as much as people believe it does.

“Everyone wants to get a fancy internship,” Webley says, “but really, where you do your research doesn’t matter so long as you do some meaningful research.”

In terms of finding a research opportunity, Webley suggests that you start looking in your department first, and to be persistent, as there are fewer labs than there are students. However, just because you might not get one research opportunity doesn’t mean you won’t get one at all. You just have to be persistent. He also notes that talking to professors face-to-face is typically more effective than writing an email.

He also debunks the preconceived notion that all prospective medical students have to be former biology majors. Apparently, last year, most people who got into medical schools actually weren’t biology majors.

To return to research though, conducting research has not only helped Webley become a better scientist and person, but also a better chef. He does not use recipes, but rather experiments each morning when he makes his son breakfast. “Some days my son throws his eggs away and sometimes he asks for more,” Webley says with a laugh.

The lecture ended on a slightly political note. According to Webley, there is a projected shortage of 90, 000 primary care physicians. While medical schools could accept many more students each year, they cannot since those same students would not have residency positions. Why is that? Because residencies are funded by federal money, Webley informs us, Medicare in particular. Over the past ten years, the funding allocated for graduate medical education has not been increased by Congress. And yet, the country will need more doctors. We will always need doctors. Now is the time, more than ever, to call your representatives and engage with them about the issue! It is essential that additional funding be provided to teaching hospitals and medical schools, giving them the flexibility to respond to the growing demand for trained physicians in almost every specialty.