The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust

2020 Summer Research Scholar Program Completed at Lehigh Valley Health Network

Despite the limits brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic – with the support of mentors and stakeholders across the network, and led by the network’s Department of Education – Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) successfully continued the long-running Summer Research Scholar Program in 2020. On Friday, July 31, a virtual closing ceremony was held to celebrate the work of 41 college students completing this year’s eight-week program. LVHN mentors, medical staff, administrators, and invited guests also attended to create a virtual gathering of more than 80 people.

The Research Scholar Program, funded by The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, is offered through the Department of Education and provides valuable assistance to LVHN divisions while giving students a project-based experience that links their academic pursuits to a professional working environment.

The Research Scholar Program has been running more than 35 years. In 2005, the program was re-branded with a new application structure and system to collect program and participant data. The program begins each fall when LVHN mentors submit potential project outlines and the specific criteria and skills needed from a student for that project.

Applications are accepted starting in February and are screened by mentors. The students are interviewed and offered scholar positions by May. This year, 295 applications were received from students representing 93 different colleges and universities. As COVID-19 impacted opportunities to safely conduct on-site work, the 2020 Research Scholars program moved to a virtual format.

Jeanne Reilly, Education Consultant, LVHN Department of Education, said it was certainly a unique summer for student learning. “We had to look for ways to create a genuine connection between the Scholars and LVHN that is always an important part of this experience.” Reilly said they achieved this through a Doctor Talks series and opening a calendar of professional development and employee engagement events at LVHN to the Scholars to join. In addition, the participating students grew camaraderie through weekly Zoom games and competitions.  Reilly also noted the commitment of this year’s mentors to making the program valuable to the students.

After Reilly’s welcome during the closing ceremony, Edward Meehan, Executive Director, The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, said the connection between education and health was an important concept to Leonard Parker Pool and Dorothy Rider Pool decades ago, and it is one that is still being tapped. “Within The Pool Trust’s focus on the social determinants of health, education is a huge lynchpin,” he said.

Meehan also shared that The Pool Trust’s first grant to LVHN in 1976 was to start a work-study program. Since then, $7 million has been contributed through 44 years to various work-study programming and in each stage of the Research Scholar program to develop and encourage future healthcare leaders.

Also addressing the 2020 Research Scholars and guests was Heather Geist, MD, a General Surgery Resident at LVHN, who was a Research Scholar in 2013 and 2014. “I am always impressed by how much is accomplished in a short time [through this program],” Geist said. She reflected that the mentorship through this program can have an incredible impact, personally and professionally, on students and young professionals. Geist left the Scholars with advice she recalls from her own experience in the phrase “Be. See. Do.” The message is to be who you are, see what you have to offer, and do what matters.

With congratulations to the 2020 LVHN Summer Research Scholars, a sample of the projects completed are shared here in images provided by LVHN.