School of Medicine graduates share their capstone projects

May 02, 2022

Student standing on a mountaintop in front of a backdrop of mountains and water.

The annual Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine Capstone Scholars Day was held virtually this year, allowing friends and families around the country to experience the dynamic projects the Class of 2022 worked diligently on.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeon Brendan Williams, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia delivered the keynote address.

The six students rewarded for outstanding work presented their projects, with the rest of the graduating class sharing posters depicting their efforts during a 90-minute viewing session. An awards ceremony recognized two faculty mentors, Dr. Abayomi Akanji, of the School of Medicine, and Dr. Amber Kelly, of the School of Health Sciences’ social work department, as outstanding capstone mentors for 2022. Twenty-seven students were recognized for high distinction in their area of concentration.

Medical students select their projects during the spring semester of their first year.

“The capstone project provides students with an opportunity to engage in self-directed learning as part of their medical school experience. Students self-design a longitudinal scholarly project in an area that is meaningful to them with the guidance of a mentor,” said Barbara Bergen, associate program director of scholarly reflection and concentration/capstone course. “This provides them with important project management, scholarship and dissemination experience that will be helpful to them in their careers as physicians.”

Selen Senocak MD ’22, was recognized for her outstanding capstone project: A historical fiction novella titled Exile in Istanbul. The story depicts the journey of German Jewish professors and physicians who sought refuge in Turkey in the years leading up to WWII.

When deciding on her project, Senocak was inspired by “Narrating History,” a creative writing course she took during her undergraduate studies. The capstone project presented an opportunity to interweave her love of writing, her familial roots and a particularly stirring moment in history.

“I grew up in Turkey and my parents live here. Any time I had vacation from school, I came home to Turkey. It’s been fun to visit places the story is set in, like the Heybeliada Sanatorium off the coast of Istanbul,” she said. “I rented a bike and explored around the sanatorium, as you can’t go into it. I noted what the character would have seen taking the boat and arriving on Heybeliada Island, what he might be smelling and feeling.”

During her research, Senocak observed the challenges of utilizing primary resources, as many archival texts on this topic are in German. She regrets that she was unable to learn more about her late grandfather’s time as a Turkish doctor working alongside Jewish German refugees.

Other noteworthy capstone projects included a podcast showcasing narratives of homeless individuals and an online trauma treatment initiative.

“A number of students in the Class of 2022 had to pivot and modify or change their capstone projects altogether due to the pandemic,” said Katherine M. McLeod, PhD, Director, scholarly reflection and concentration/capstone course and assistant professor in the department of medical sciences. “Whether transitioning their studies to conduct remote research methods or carrying out rigorous systematic reviews and meta-analysis instead, our students handled the difficulties brought on by the pandemic with such grace, yielding high quality scholarship in the end.”

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