Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars (NIH/FIC)

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Fogarty International Center (FIC) offers a one-year clinical research training experience for graduate level U.S. students in the health professions. The Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars “provides supportive mentorship, research opportunities, and a collaborative research environment for early stage investigators from the U.S. and low- and middle-income countries to enhance their global health research expertise and their careers.”

Student Profile: Mark Franciosa (class of 2006)

Mark Franciosa, M.D., BUSM ’06, participated in the Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars and Fellows Program (FICRS-F) while at Boston University School of Medicine (between third and fourth year). The FICRS-F is the predecessor of the Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars.

  • Timeframe of Mark’s research: June 2004 – June 2005
  • His project location: Christian Medical College, Vellore, India

Journal entry (written January, 2005 by Mark Franciosa)

I am a fourth-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine and I have spent the last 6 months in the Fogarty-Ellison Fellowship for International Health. To this point, I can say that this has been an amazing experience filled with learning, adventures and challenges. This program has far exceeded my expectations and is perfect training for anyone considering a career in international health research.The Fogarty-Ellison Fellowship started this year with twenty medical students who have completed three years of school matched to fourteen different sites around the world.

The matching process was similar to the residency match where the students ranked the sites and the sites ranked the students. Each of these medical students matched with one student from the site where they would spend the year. I was matched to Vellore, India, which was one of the few sites that had two students from the United States. The medical students and their counterparts were brought to the NIH for one month of training. The training consisted of classes in Bioethics, Biostatistics, and grant writing. We enjoyed talks by important people in the field of public health such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Surgeon General Richard Carmona. In addition to receiving training for the year, we also had a chance to get to know the students at our sites prior to arriving.

After our month of training, I was already very impressed with the program.We arrived in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India on July 26, 2004 and were immediately overwhelmed by how different it was from the United States. The students from Vellore that we matched with helped us to adjust to our new surroundings. Eventually I adjusted and became amused by the challenges of daily life such as squat toilets, spicy food, daily temperatures over 100 degrees, crowded public transportation and constantly being eaten by mosquitoes. With time, I really did not miss the amenities from home such as television, radio or coffee shops. The other student at the site with me is Jacqueline Firth who is a fourth year medical student at Tulane School of Medicine. My transition to living in India was made easier by having someone else to share the experience. She has been an excellent partner and has helped me to keep my sanity especially during the first month.

My only negative experience in Vellore was being robbed. One Friday afternoon when I was at the clinic, thieves cut the locks off our house and stole money, electronics and personal items. As anyone who has been robbed can tell you, it is a feeling of being violated and unable to control the situation. Luckily, no one was hurt and, after a week of obsessive thoughts about how I could have prevented the robbery, I put it behind me.

I have been very fortunate to be assigned to Christian Medical College (CMC) where the research opportunities are endless. At CMC, I have been provided with an excellent mentor
(Dr. Gagandeep Kang) who has helped me to find projects that allowed me to have an active role and prevented me from committing to more than I could handle. In addition to research, there are plenty of opportunities at CMC to take classes in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and to attend clinical rounds. My main project deals with supplementing the nutrition of patients with TB and HIV and assessing the effects of this supplementation on the course of their recovery from TB and their overall nutrition. The project is challenging emotionally because I am working with very sick and starving patients, many of who will not live to the end of the study.

In addition to doing research, we are also encouraged to explore the countries to which we are assigned. Southern India is an amazing place to visit and has been easily accessible from Vellore using a very reliable train system. I hope to explore some of Northern India before I leave.

I have also had the opportunity to work with relief organizations to help people who were affected by the tsunami. I have been part of a team of 10 to 15 people who have been assigned to a coastal village where we provided tetanus and typhoid vaccines and treated anyone with simple upper respiratory or diarrheal infections. More serious cases were sent to the
nearest hospital.

The six months that I have spent in the Fogarty program have been incredibly rewarding, exciting, and fun. The program is definitely worth taking a year off from medical school. I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in international health as a career consider this program.