Gaining stem cell research experience, changing lives

If it seems like we write a lot about our Bridges trainees, it’s because they keep doing interesting things. These students, mostly from community colleges and California State University campuses, get opportunities to take classes in stem cell biology and carry out research in stem cell labs at partner institutions.

Sarah Imam, a CSUN Bridges student, with UCLA stem cell researcher Dr. Michael Teitell (courtesy of Kim Irwin)

Recently UCLA wrote about Sarah Imam, from CSU Northridge, who has been doing research in the lab of CIRM grantee Michael Teitall at UCLA. The story quotes CSUN’s Bridges program director Cindy Malone:

“The Bridges students are exposed to projects and experiences that we can’t provide to them here under any circumstances,” said Malone, who teaches and runs a lab at CSUN. “We don’t have the kind of research facilities or the resources that UCLA has. This program offers students the whole environment of being immersed in a research career.”

Imam said that she had wanted to go to medical school. After her internship she now wants to pursue research as well with an M.D., Ph.D. She said:

“My experience in the Bridges program has changed my perspective. I see research now as an indispensable element to medicine, and it’s exciting to think of a future contributing to solutions to challenging medical conditions.”

She’s not alone in having her career interests altered by the program. I had the opportunity to meet a former Bridges student Benjamin Parcher who was visiting CIRM’s vice chair Senator Art Torres (retired).

Parcher’s experience in the Bridges program influenced his decision to enter a Doctor of Pharmacy program at UCSF. His exposure to research that could benefit people led him to a career where he could interact with patients directly. He said, “I aim to work with patients who need or are receiving regenerative therapies of the type CIRM fosters in clinical investigation settings. Thus, a role that is hands on and research based.”

These kinds of stories show the importance of exposing young people to research that could improve human health. They are now qualified for careers in fields where their experience and expertise can lead to new therapies and better patient care.

Here is more information about the Bridges program and a map of the participating institutions. This video gives some background on the types of projects undertaken by the Bridges students:


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