This summer University of South Florida College of Public Health undergraduate student Mr. Shawn Zamani worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, as an Amgen Scholar.
The Amgen Scholars Program allows undergraduates from across the globe to participate in cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions. Students benefit from undertaking a research project under top faculty and being part of a cohort-based experience of seminars and networking events.
“I think the NIH Amgen Scholars Program is unique because of its focus on the role of science, policy and community engagement in the elimination of health disparities,” Mr. Zamani said. “Aside from our lab work, we had weekly presentations from members of the NIH community on issues related to health disparities and followed each lecture by round table discussions.”
[Photo: Mr. Shawn Zamani (Photo courtesy of Zamani)]
Mr. Zamani worked with Drs. Jessica Petrick and Michael B. Cook at the National Cancer Institute to study the association of dietary polyunsaturated fat intake with head and neck, esophageal, and gastric cancers.
“Often, patients with such cancers do not receive medical attention until the cancer has advanced and due to the aggressive nature of these cancers, preventative therapy is not feasible,” Mr. Zamani said. “Therefore, identifying risk factors to develop primary prevention strategies and reduce the disease burden is of considerable public health importance.”
During his internship, Mr. Zamani’s average day would include reviewing literature and working on his manuscript and presentations. He reviewed policy briefs before meeting with his mentors and planned the next steps for their research. Mr. Zamani was also able to tune into webinars and attend workshops on scientific writing or data analysis.
“In fact, one of our tasks – and one of my favorite projects – was to research an area of health disparities and develop a policy brief addressed to a decision maker,” he said. “Translating scientific evidence into public health policy is a complex challenge, but it is an essential part of the research process.”
The NIH Amgen cohort engaged with high school juniors who were part of the NIH High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program, a program for disadvantaged students interested in biomedical and health care careers.
“I really enjoyed getting to know some of the students and learning about their work and plans for college,” he said. “As a young student, mentoring and scientific inspiration played a vital role in my decision to pursue research, so I take every opportunity to help the next generation of scientists get ahead!”
Story by Ms. Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health