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Weill Cornell Medical College Student Awarded Sarnoff Fellowship

Amanda Garfinkel, a third-year medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College, was awarded a one-year fellowship from the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation. The Sarnoff Fellowship Program offers medical students the opportunity to spend a year conducting work in a biomedical research facility in the United States, other than the medical school in which they are enrolled.

Garfinkel will receive a $32,000 annual stipend to conduct research, and up to $8,000 for moving expenses and travel support to present a paper at two national conferences, and to attend the Sarnoff annual scientific meeting and American Heart Association scientific sessions. Garfinkel will begin research in the Seidman Lab at Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics and the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Women's Hospital under the guidance of preceptors Dr. Christine Seidman and Dr. Jonathan Seidman. The lab uses a variety of cell and animal models to study the genetic bases of cardiomyopathies and congenital heart disease.

“When I heard about the Sarnoff Fellowship, I found it so unique because it encourages students to step outside their research comfort zones,” Garfinkel said. “My experiences in clinical research have made me curious about the basic science work that informs clinical hypotheses, and I’m grateful to the Sarnoff Foundation for giving me this opportunity to enter a basic science lab and try something new at this stage in my education.”

Garfinkel is a part of the first class at Weill Cornell Medicine to learn under the institution’s new curriculum, which provides students with a six-month period to devote to a scholarly project through the Areas of Concentration Program. For her project, Garfinkel worked with neonatologist Dr. Alan Groves to better understand body composition and inflammation in infants born to mothers with diabetes. Now she will build upon that research foundation through the Sarnoff Fellowship.

“Dedicated time to research training is priceless,” said Dr. Groves, the Friedman Family Foundation Clinical Scholar in Newborn Medicine and an associate professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine. “The full year to do research will allow her to dedicate her time purely to the acquisition of new skills. I’m very excited to see how her career progresses in the future.”

Mentorship is also a vital part of the fellowship, said Dr. Melissa Frey, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and a Sarnoff alumnus. “Sarnoff wants you to get mentored through everything,” said Dr. Frey. “I got introduced to Sarnoff by my medicine preceptor, Dr. Morton Bogdonoff, who was an outstanding mentor to me and hundreds of other Weill Cornell medical students. Dr. Bogdonoff guided me through the application, closely followed my progress in and even flew to Washington D.C. with his family to watch my Sarnoff graduation presentation. I am grateful to him and know that he would be very excited about Amanda representing Cornell as another Sarnoff research fellow.”

A beneficial feature of the Sarnoff fellowship is that each student receives personal advice from a member of the foundation’s scientific committee and from Sarnoff alumni. “Involvement with the Sarnoff community can become a life-long relationship that fosters collaborations and collegiality within the cardiovascular field,” said Dr. Anthony Brown, director of medical student research at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Garfinkel is the sixth student from the institution awarded a Sarnoff fellowship. The last awardees from Weill Cornell Medical College were two in 2009.

“My research mentors at Weill Cornell Medicine — particularly Dr. Groves — have demonstrated to me that research is an extension of patient care. When I face a clinical problem I cannot solve, I want to have the tools to transform my frustrations into thoughtful research questions,” Garfinkel said. “I hope my Sarnoff Fellowship experience will expand my research skill set, broaden my critical thinking abilities, and introduce me to a community of like-minded physician-scientists.” 

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