Aug 29, 2017

Admissions blog: Spotlight on the Research Application Support Initiative


The Community of Support is a program created by the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine focused on increasing the number of students that are Indigenous, Black and economically disadvantaged in the MD program. Over the next few weeks, the admissions blog will highlight interviews with medical students who have helped create aspects of the Community of Support or volunteered their time with the Community of Support. 

This week, the admissions team spoke with Amanda Khan, MD/PhD student, who started the Research Application Support Initiative (RASI) alongside Ike Okafor, Senior Officer, Service Learning and Diversity Outreach. For the 2017/2018 year, RASI will be coordinated by MD students Sachin Doshi and Justin Wee


From left to right: Sachin Doshi, Justin Wee, Amanda Khan, Ike Okafor

What compelled you to start the Research Application Support Initiative (RASI)?

Even though I am an MD/PhD student, I actually have ZERO research experience from my undergraduate degree! I really wanted to work in a lab during my undergrad, but didn't know who to contact, where to look, or what to even say when looking for a research position. I was very fortunate that my Master's supervisor took a chance on me and it was only then that I was finally able to sink my teeth into experiments. I didn't realize that other people also had the same problems as me until Ike Okafor and I started talking about his students in the Community of Support.

I wanted to start RASI to help undergraduate students who are interested in applying to medicine or graduate degrees gain valuable research experience. As an MD/PhD student, I definitely now know how to find awesome research positions and I would like to help others navigate this path!

What kind of support can prospective medical school applicants expect through RASI?

RASI mentees are matched, based on their experience and interests to medical students who have extensive research backgrounds in both the MD and MD/PhD programs. These medical student mentors share with them their experience in applying to research positions and help them identify and reach out to labs that they are interested in working in. Throughout the year, we offer live, online workshops that students can Skype into, to get help on various topics like how to approach a potential supervisor, how to make a research CV (vs a resume), how to apply to scholarships for graduate degrees and how to publish a research paper. We also provide all students with an extensive list of all summer research opportunities that various hospitals/universities in Toronto have and a timeline of when they need to apply to them. Lastly, for our most motivated students, we have guaranteed research positions in top labs ranging from basic science, health promotion, medical statistics and engineering.

Why is access to research experience before entering medical school important?

A large part of the OMSAS application for medical schools in Ontario concerns what kind of research/publications/presentations you have under your belt. If I were to have applied to medical school during my undergraduate degree (when I had no research experience), I would have left a large part of my OMSAS application blank. Research is looked upon very favorably by all medical school admission panels and I think it is crucial to get premeds involved in research early on. Medical school applications aside, research experience also expands your technical skill base and analytical thinking , writing and presentation abilities. Plus research is cool!

 How can students interested in this program get involved?

RASI is turning two! We will be offering an even bigger and better program this year, so I encourage anyone who is interested in getting in contact with us. The 2017/2018 coordinators will be Sachin Doshi and Justin Wee, two amazing medical students who will be working with Ike Okafor to expand the program. All of RASI's information can be found on the Faculty of Medicine's Community of Support website.


If you are a premedical student who is interested in participating in the Community of Support, you are able to do so by filling out the form here