Three students from the Infectious Diseases Interest Group at the Wayne State University School of Medicine were invited by the Infectious Diseases Society of America Foundation to present the group’s Vaccine Ambassadors Program at the organization’s IDWeek in Washington, D.C.
Soham Desai, Sofia Howson and Jennifer Schmidt are Class of 2026 M.D. candidates.
“When receiving the invite, I was instantly ecstatic,” Schmidt said. “Unlike many professions, Infectious Disease is not fully represented in medical school. It is a fellowship and thus an aspect of the future instead of the present. However, going to IDWeek made it that much more real. In one place, there were hundreds of infectious disease physicians with such complex backgrounds, including tropical and rural medicine. Throughout the week, we were able to talk to them, learn about their research and their goals for the future. We were able to learn about new therapies and dive into complex cases. During these moments, it was so uplifting to understand their ideas and apply what Wayne State University School of Medicine has taught us. It also gave me some excitement for the future and confirm my love for the field.”
Presented annually, IDWeek took place Oct. 19-23. The joint meeting of the IDSA, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medical Association, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists offers attendees access to leaders in the field and the opportunity to network with highly respected health professionals.
Schmidt, Howson and Desai are mentored by Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases.
She is also the faculty advisor of the Infectious Diseases Interest Group and in June piloted Vaccine Ambassadors, a two-year program supported by a $60,000 grant from the Detroit Medical Center Foundation that educates Detroit’s high school students during the summer to become ambassadors for promoting vaccination. The School of Medicine interest group’s students are the ambassador’s trainers.
Before attending ID Week, the medical students participated in the IDSA Mentorship program, which connected them to practicing infectious disease physicians. The program extended to the conference week, including a mentorship luncheon and another social gathering.
“I think this was a great addition to my education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. While attending the various case studies at IDWeek, I was able to follow what the physicians were saying, and it was incredibly rewarding knowing that I was able to apply the knowledge I acquired at the School of Medicine,” Desai said.
During the events, the students networked with medical students, residents, fellows and program directors.
“I am incredibly thankful for being offered the opportunity to attend ID Week and be a part of a large community of highly intelligent infectious diseases physicians around the country,” Desai added. “I was able to learn so much about the various illnesses that infectious disease physicians see daily, as well as how the field itself permeates through all specialties in medicine. It was an experience that grew my interest in infectious diseases even more.”
The IDSA foundation also interviewed the students about their mentorships with Dr. Chopra, the interest group and the Vaccine Ambassadors program.
"I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and present at ID Week,” Howson said. “While there, I was able to attend lectures and network with other physicians in the field of Infectious Disease who work all across country. I was excited to realize that as an ID physician, there are many opportunities and pathways available for you to practice medicine, whether it be through public health, global health, clinical work or research. I really fell in love with the idea that ID is an open door where your options for practicing medicine are limitless, especially because the field is always evolving and will always be needed.”
The trio of medical students attended numerous lectures and poster presentations that focused on recent innovations, discoveries and challenging cases within the field.
“This was a great addition to my education here,” Howson added. “I especially enjoyed the ability to use the medical knowledge that I have learned from the School of Medicine and apply it to the case studies I attended at ID Week. It was a great way to confirm that all the hard work we are putting in now is definitely paying off.”
Throughout the week, they were provided new insight into the field of infectious disease while discussing their own recent contributions.
“Through opportunities like IDWeek, we can grow outside of the classroom both professionally and academically,” Schmidt said. “I expanded upon the knowledge I learned at Wayne State and applied it to current clinical experiences. I also learned essential skills such as networking and discovered different academic endeavors. Overall, I am happy I was able to have the opportunity and hope to be able to participate in the future.”