Jason Lau named Medical Research Scholar by the National Institutes of Health

Medical student awarded year-long research fellowship designed to cultivate physician-scientists

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

June 27, 2017
  Jason Lau

Jason Lau

The National Institutes of Health has named third-year School of Medicine student Jason Lau a 2017 Medical Research Scholar.

Starting in July, Lau will spend a year in residence at the NIH’s national headquarters in Bethesda, Md., conducting an independent biomedical research project under the mentorship of principal investigators.

“Medicine has always been, for me, learning about the problems in the health care system as they pertain to hindering the ability of clinicians to provide the best care,” Lau said. “In medical school and as a clinician, I will have the opportunity to gain knowledge that could help researchers discover ways to improve communication and provide more effective care. At the NIH, I will have the opportunity to help develop the tools to make this possible.”

As an NIH scholar, Lau will focus on informatics research under the mentorship of Clem J. McDonald, MD, director of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communication at the National Library of Medicine, whose projects include analyzing clinical data to provide feedback to clinicians and developing electronic medical record systems.

“What I love about medicine is the need to integrate disparate sources of information and data to make evidence-based health care decisions. Managing all of this data is a challenge. Informatics research fascinates me because we have the potential to use a person’s entire past medical history through electronic medical records to make informed clinical decisions in ways that were not feasible with stacks of paper binders. In the future, I hope to be able to apply medical informatics to improve the transition of care from child to adult or the longitudinal care of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity,” Lau said.

The Medical Research Scholars Program is a year-long enrichment program that provides mentored training to creative, research-oriented medical, dental and veterinary students on the intramural NIH campus. Lau joins 41 other students from across the country for the program. The residential program enables scholars to conduct basic, clinical and translational research in areas that match the students’ personal interests and career goals.

“These 42 scholars represent some of the country’s most promising future biomedical researchers and academic leaders,” said Frederick P. Ognibene, MD, director of the Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, NIH Clinical Center.

In addition to conducting their individual research projects, scholars participate in structured program activities including weekly journal club meetings; lectures on basic, translational and clinical research topics; and participation in clinical rounds in the NIH Clinical Center. The students also present their research to the NIH community and at domestic professional conferences.

More than 225 students have completed the NIH program since 2012. School of Medicine ’16 alumna Josephine Larkin Harrington, MD, was a 2014 NIH Medical Research Scholar and School of Medicine ’18 MD candidate Jacqueline Pires is finishing her year-long fellowship this summer.

Lau, of Natick, developed his passion for research as an undergraduate at Tufts University, where he received a biomedical engineering degree. As an undergraduate, he worked in basic science with research related to stem cells, but he felt disconnected from the clinicians who would ultimately implement the treatment and the patients who would benefit. After graduation, he joined a team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in information systems, developing software and programs to gather data from EMRs characterizing allergic reactions and adverse effects to medications.

Lau said medical school provides the missing link in his academic journey and will enable him to better understand how he can develop tools to improve communication between clinicians and patients and thus improve care. When Lau returns to UMMS in the summer of 2018, he will complete his fourth year of medical training and graduate in 2019, possibly with a focus on pediatrics or internal medicine, with a strong research component.

“I enjoy learning from different people and areas and then combining what I’ve learned into something I couldn’t have done with only one particular pathway,” Lau said.

More on UMassMedNow:
Pires named Medical Research Scholar by the National Institutes of Health

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