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Pathology Awards And Grants: Q & A With University of Chicago Pathology Resident, Dr. Alex Gallan (Part 2)

By Dr. Samir Desai

In Part 1 of our Q & A with Dr. Alexander Gallan, a pathology resident at the University of Chicago, Alex discussed why he chose pathology as a career, described two awards he received from the American Society of Clinical Pathology as a medical student, and offered tips and strategies for students interested in winning these awards.  In Part 2 of our Q & A, Alex tells us about the Project Grant he received from the American Society for Investigative Pathology during medical school at Boston University.

You received the American Society for Investigative Pathology Project Grant to help develop the Cadaver Biopsy Project case studies. Why was this project important to you, and how did the grant help you complete the project?

The project was particularly important to me because it combined two of my major passions: pathology and medical education. The idea was that we would develop a curriculum that spanned the four years of medical school and would integrate the basic and clinical sciences. In the first year, a pathologist would come to the anatomy lab with students, discuss the disease processes in the cadaver, and take biopsies of normal and diseased organs. When the students took histology later in the first year, the pathologist would teach normal histology using the biopsy from the "patient." In the second year pathophysiology course, the pathologist would use the biopsy findings to teach the students about the disease of their "patient." In the third and fourth years, students would revisit the basic sciences of that disease with the pathologist through a PowerPoint presentation. This project really ignited my interest in pathology and convinced me that I wanted medical education to be a big part of my career. 

The grant was a crucial part of the project. It funded the implementation of the curricular changes, and I believe also covered the support staff who dedicated their time to the project. Additionally, it provided a small stipend to the medical students participating in this project. It did not pay off my medical school loans, but every little bit helps and it is nice to be recognized for working hard!

What advice would you give to students interested in applying for a Project Grant?

First of all, you have to find the right grant for your project. Thanks to your book, Medical School Scholarships, Grants & Awards, students can find all types of awards very easily. Once you find the right grant, the key is to write an excellent application. You need to clearly and precisely delineate your project and how you will implement it. This means that you really have to sit down and think about your project - do you have the right people to help you? The necessary resources? What problems could arise? The more time you spend thinking about the details, the more appealing your application will be. And of course, you need to explain how the money from the grant will aid your project.

How did your awards and grant help you during the residency application/selection process?

The awards and grant that I received were absolutely crucial. Of course it is nice to have another line on your CV/application. But the benefit is far greater than that. In my experience, a big part of applying to residency is creating a story to convince the program that you are the type of person they want to be working with each day. That story is rooted in the experiences of your life - your performance in medical school, the activities you took part in, your extracurricular activities, the way you convey yourself in your essay, etc. Receiving these awards and grants helped me to create a cohesive story about who I am and who I want to be - an eager academic pathologist who is passionate about diagnosing disease and teaching medical students. I believe this strengthened my application, and was also a common topic during my residency interviews. Ultimately, I was fortunate to match at my # 1 choice, and I attribute a lot of that to these awards I received!