Richard Morgan feels grateful. This June, Morgan will graduate with combined MD/PhD degrees from the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. While most graduates grapple with how to pay their student loans, Morgan is looking to the future of medical education and health care by making a personal commitment to pave the way for promising students to have the educational and research opportunities he has had.
“Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and I think everyone can agree that in order for medicine to deliver the best care possible, our health care workforce should reflect our diversity,” Morgan said. “Underrepresented minority students with stellar grades and wonderful potential are struggling to gain access to research experiences in top-tier labs. I feel so lucky to have had research experiences that have laid the foundation for me to excel in science and medicine.”
Scientific investigation opportunities are a crucial component to the education of future physician-scientists, but all too often these opportunities are out of reach for minority students. Physician-scientists lead the way in discoveries that address such
medical challenges as COVID-19, and evidence demonstrates that diversity in the workplace correlates with improved innovation. However, according to a recent report, graduates of MD-PhD programs are actually less diverse than the population as a whole. To increase opportunities for students at UCLA to become involved in research and receive the one-on-one mentorship essential for successfully applying to MD-PhD programs, Morgan joined forces with university leadership to plan and launch the UCLA MD-PhD Summer Research Fellowship Program, which will provide access and support for UCLA undergraduate students to conduct research in some of the most competitive laboratories at UCLA.
“The main reason to launch this summer research fellowship is to help college students fall in love with scientific research and feel that they are supported by our amazing UCLA faculty as they consider the combined MD-PhD-training pathway,” said Dr. Carlos Portera-Cailliau, Steven C. Gordon Family Chair in Parkinson’s Disease Research and co-director of MSTP. “This is particularly important for students who come from traditionally underrepresented groups in science and medicine.”
Morgan is passionate about reducing barriers for fellow students of color who are interested in research, and he applauded the UCLA MD-PhD Summer Research Fellowship Program endeavor by making the first gift to the new program. “I asked myself, ‘How can I make a difference?’” he said. “Investing in the minds of incredible students with remarkable talent and potential who have the desire to realize a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones is one way I can think of to make a huge difference in this world.”
Four UCLA students have entered the inaugural summer program. They will complete an eight-week research program with individualized mentorship and receive a stipend for living expenses. After completion of the program, participating students will continue to receive faculty mentorship and guidance as they apply for MD-PhD programs. As the fellowship program receives more funding, it will expand to include more students and continue diversifying the pipeline of future leaders in biomedical research. Richard Morgan.
Photo: Reed Hutchinson For more information, contact Katherine Van Story at: 310-903-9721