Enriching 2021 Summer for Dozens of Local Students
thanks to a Pilot Program with the
Museum of Modern Art Educational Collaboration
Many young people hoped the summer of 2021 would represent a return to normalcy in New York City. The continuing Covid-19 pandemic and Delta variant, however, upended many of those plans to find meaningful opportunities for personal, social, and educational growth during the summer months.
But not all summer plans were dashed. 48 high school and college students enjoyed a rich and rewarding six-week virtual summer program hosted by Weill Cornell Medicine’s (WCM) Englander Institute for Precision Medicine and the Meyer Cancer Center.
Participants worked remotely with WCM faculty to develop a research proposal and participate in weekly didactics. They attended a comprehensive curriculum around three core areas: cancer biology & therapeutics, precision medicine, and cancer epidemiology and health disparities. The students gained a deeper understanding of the disease heterogeneity, and appreciation for the cutting-edge approaches employed to treat cancer. Importantly, they were introduced to the principles of interdisciplinary, translational research that brings together basic scientists and clinicians for the rapid translation of discoveries from the bench to the bedside and back. Students also learned about the role of the social determinants of health underlying cancer disparities and affecting health outcomes of communities in NYC and beyond.
Many students were especially excited to learn about the exciting technology being used to advance science and speed treatments to patients. A post-program survey found the lecture “XR in Medicine in the Era of Precision Medicine,” by EIPM Assistant Professor of Research Alex Sigaras especially exciting.
“I completed a machine learning course prior to the start of the program, so it was really interesting to see the applications of what I had just learned in the clinical world,” said student Sarah Gorbatov. “How virtual, augmented, and extended reality are used both to help us visualize big data, such as complex drug networks, and to make procedures in the wet lab more efficient, such as with the mrLab project, is fascinating to me. In my future medical career, I can see myself experimenting with XR for a wide variety of tasks, whether it be collaborating, visualizing, diagnosing, or treating.”
Many students greatly appreciated a basic introduction to the biology of cancer and came away with a greater appreciation for how precision medicine can advance both research and patient care. Student Davina Goodman’s favorite presentation was “Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy,” by Dr. Juan R Cubillos-Ruiz. “I believe he gave a great lecture through the use of thoughtful visuals, explanations, and videos,” observed Ms. Goodman. “Additionally, I appreciated that Dr. Cubilos-Ruiz started off by introducing larger topics like the explaining what the immune system is, and then delved into a more detailed exploration of immunotherapy and its advantages as cancer therapy.”
One of the more practical aspects of the summer program was the emphasis placed on finding and working with a mentor, at all stages of the student experience, from high school through post-graduate life and beyond. These topics really resonated with students after hearing Weill Cornell Medicine Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Ruth Gotian, present: “Professional Development: How a Mentor Can Help You Succeed.”
“Dr. Gotian’s presentation was my favorite lecture because I believe the advice and information on the importance of finding a mentor and the role of mentorship in success is most applicable to succeeding at the moment, especially regarding the age of the students in this program,” observed rising college senior Sophia Sokol. “I now know how important mentors are and how they can truly help you. I wish I was able to sit through this lecture a few years ago and learn about the significance of a mentorship earlier in my academic career. Although it’s never too late, I believe the earlier you start making connections, the more you will succeed.”
An ArtSci Educational Collaboration with MoMA
Additionally, students had the opportunity to participate in two pilot activities, designed by WCM’s Dr. Spyridon Mylonas, and Francis Estrada in the Museum of Modern Art’s Education Department (right), on how art can address or make a positive impact on social, political, and environmental, issues, with a focus on the socioeconomic factors that contribute to health disparities. The example of Massoud Hassani’s Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer introduced students to the interplay of art, design, and technology to solve real-life issues.
Mr. Estrada led these two inquiry-based, multimodal sessions with the students, featuring among others the works “Emergency Room.” by Robert Colescott, and “Surviving Active Shooter Custer,” by Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds. The students were encouraged to think critically about how artists depict social issues in response to the social, cultural, and political issues of their time. Inspired and reflecting on these works, students created their own commentary on social issues affecting the well-being and health of communities.
This MoMA collaboration is part of a comprehensive and innovative curriculum at the intersection of science and art, developed by Dr. Spyridon Mylonas, as part of his engagement in the Faculty Scholars in Health Equity Program, offered by the Diversity Center of Excellence of the Cornell Center for Health Equity.
“Our aim is to understand why cancer (health) disparities exist and the interplay between biology and behavior, with the social determinants of health, and a history of discrimination and mistrust at play in many communities,” said Dr. Mylonas. “These discussions address historic cases of discrimination in Medicine, and current socioeconomic realities that affect the health and well-being of many communities in the country, especially communities of color. I see art as a powerful tool to have potentially difficult discussions, about history and present, challenge our own perceptions and biases, and initiate change. Through this collaboration with MoMA we want to empower students, many of whom come from underrepresented backgrounds in Medicine, to transform their communities.”
Francis Estrada, artist and educator in MoMA’s education department, believes in the power of art to be a catalyst for deep emotional responses and meaningful conversations. Social and emotional learning through art provides a powerful educational tool to support students in processing their experiences as individuals while fostering empathy. “By talking about artists’ experiences, processes, and intentions, we connect students to other people’s lived experiences, imagery and objects from other cultures, and their stories – and provide exposure to different realities and multiple perspectives that exist around us,” said Mr. Estrada. “This type of learning serves to challenge any biases and stereotypes we may hold, while increasing our capacity for empathy.” Dr. Mylonas is looking forward to continuing and expanding this collaboration that transcends art, science, pedagogy, and activism.
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The 2022 Summer Internship Program application deadline is February 28, 2022 5 pm EST.
2022 Tentative Timeline
February 28: application deadline
March: interviews and selection
June- August: 6 week Internship
Please apply here: https://www.cognitoforms.com/IPM3/_2022SummerProgramApplication
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