School of Medicine students urged to find ‘your north star’

March 15, 2023

Janani Arangan

Quinnipiac's Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine 2023 Capstone Scholars Day celebrated the completion of longitudinal, mentored medical projects undertaken by graduates. The March 10 virtual event drew nearly 250 attendees.

“We’ve been looking forward to this day for the past four years, and to this opportunity to showcase to your colleagues, your friends and your family all of your hard work and dedication in completion of your capstone projects,” said Katherine McLeod, director, scholarly reflection and concentration/capstone course (SRCC). McLeod is also assistant professor, department of medical sciences.

McLeod also thanked SRCC associate program director Barbara Bergen as well as faculty mentors and many others for their contributions and guidance to the Class of 2023.

Phillip Boiselle, dean of the School of Medicine, remarked, “The program is a true highlight of our innovative medical education program, and one of the distinctive ways its curriculum fosters a personalized approach to scholarship and lifelong learning.”

Quinnipiac President Judy Olian joined Boiselle in remarking on the breadth and depth of capstone projects, as well as the array of scholarly pursuits on timely issues facing our communities and society.

“Capstone Scholars Day illustrates that medicine isn’t just about treating patients in the clinic. Oftentimes, it’s about treating social ills. Many of you explored these complex issues with your capstone projects,” said Olian. “You have tackled some of the most difficult macro issues in healthcare.”

Spanning basic science bench research to community-based participatory research, projects engaged in transgender health, food insecurity, illicit substance use, obesity, climate change, the broad-reaching effects of the pandemic and many other topics.

The day’s keynote address was delivered by primary care internal medicine physician Douglas Olson MD. Olson is Clinical Director of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program at Optimus Health Care, Bridgeport. From 2021 through 2022, Olson was the nation’s Chief Medical Officer for Medicaid and CHIP.

Olson discussed the importance of “finding your north star” and his experiential journey.

“If you haven’t figured out what your north star is yet, I encourage you to look right in front of you,” said Olson, displaying a Connecticut map. “Areas where there is lower life expectancy [are] all of the cities in this state. It’s also where most of you have rotated throughout your past four years and had some transformational clinical experiences. What you’ve learned at Quinnipiac is really informing your north star; but you’ve seen everything I’m talking about.”

In recognition of outstanding project work, six capstone scholars presented oral project overviews, followed by a poster viewing session of all Class of 2023 capstone projects.

The award ceremony recognized two outstanding capstone faculty mentors from the School of Medicine, Dr. Julianne Hall and Dr. Alex Parkhouse. Six members of the Class of 2023 were honored with outstanding capstone scholarship awards, and 37 were recognized with high distinction for their area of concentration.

Oral presenter Janani Arangan, MD ’23, earned high distinction for her project, “Grocery Voucher Pilot: Addressing Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Patients with Type II Diabetes in New Haven, Connecticut.”

Arangan said she was inspired to undertake the project after assisting at a community health fair organized by second-year medical students when she was a first-year student.

“The health fair was done in collaboration with the Fair Haven clinic and a local community neighborhood organization, as well as the schools. It was my introduction to the neighborhood, to the clinic and its services. From that point, I reached out to clinic to see if there were any physicians who wanted to work with medical school students.”

Arangan connected with Fair Haven Community Health Care clinical lead of health equity, Michelle Pensa MD. Working with an interprofessional team, Arangan helped the clinic create a sustainable grocery voucher program for low income, type II diabetes patients. Her work ranged from collecting evidence-based research to securing grant funding, partnering with a grocery store, developing program materials and tracking results over the program’s 8-month implementation. Patients worked with nurse educators and received $25 monthly vouchers to purchase healthy foods. Project results recorded a decrease in patient blood glucose levels. In addition, for patients who had disconnected from the clinic during the pandemic or due to financial circumstances, the project provided a bridge to reconnect and improve patient engagement.

“I really consider myself as part of a team effort, and I’m so grateful to be part of a hardworking and well-respected team,” said Arangan. “I’m grateful I got to learn so much from patients’ stories and experiences. I enjoyed being in their lives, and helping where I could.”

School of Medicine students select their capstone scholar project in the spring semester of their first year.

“I would say to them be bold about reaching out to potential mentors, whether it’s physicians in the field that you want to go into, or who are working on cool projects, or are involved in some policy or initiative that you want to learn more about,” Arangan advised. “I really think that first step of taking initiative and reaching out; and being empowered as a medical student to do that, is huge.”

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