Alumnus Develops AUA Research Program for University of Maryland

Giving back to students at his alma mater is a priority for Dr. Osman Ali, a Class of 2017 AUA graduate. Dr. Ali is a second-year internal medicine resident at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), where he was recently selected to be Chief Resident. At the UMMC Midtown campus, Dr. Ali created a research program open exclusively to AUA students who have a gap between finishing medical school and starting residency.

He found himself in this exact situation two years ago; he was finishing clinical rotations but had a 10-month window to fill before he began residency.“I did my fourth-year ICU rotation at the University of Maryland and happened to be on rotation with the ICU director, Dr. Verceles,” said Dr. Ali. “We got to chatting, and I told him I had some time before starting residency. He asked me for my CV, and that prompted me to apply for—and get accepted for—a research post-doc fellowship in the pulmonary and critical care department.”

During his research fellowship, Dr. Ali worked on two clinical trials, one of which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He later matched with UMMC’s internal medicine residency program, and he is now using his own experience to pave the way for other AUA graduates following a similar path. The research program he started in pulmonary and critical care accepts at least two AUA graduates each year.

“In the program, we teach them the entire process of doing clinical research,” said Dr. Ali. “They learn about statistics and how to use live equipment. They meet with critical care attending physicians and get experience in the various research programs the department has going on at that time. So far, including myself, six of us from AUA have gone through the program. And all have matched with residency programs!”

The program has been a success, and UMMC plans to continue it in future years, offering positions exclusively to AUA students. Research fellows are currently working on two active clinical trials—one for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and one for the National Institute on Aging.

“We’ve had a good track record with AUA graduates, and it’s a great pathway for students graduating off-cycle to add more to their CV,” said Dr. Ali. “Step scores are definitely important, but being well-rounded, and especially being involved in research, are things that we value.”

After completing his residency, Dr. Ali hopes to match to a gastroenterology fellowship at a program on the East Coast. He is interested in advanced bariatric endoscopy, which is the focus of much of his work at the moment. At UMMC, he is researching the use of telemedicine to help patients with chronic gastrointestinal issues. Dr. Ali, with the help of two AUA graduates, is investigating whether early intervention via telemedicine can help shorten the hospital stays of patients who use the emergency department often. Dr. Ali stays involved with AUA, keeping in touch with faculty, hosting webinars for prospective students, and answering questions from current AUA students who are studying for exams. He is invested in empowering the next generation of doctors who are graduating from AUA.

“It’s important to give back because it can be a daunting process, especially for students coming from a school outside the U.S.,” he said. “AUA does a great job of letting students lead and progress in their career. I had opportunities to serve as a TA and tutor while I was there that I found really rewarding and planted the seed for my interest in teaching. AUA allowed me to take charge of my education, providing just enough support as well as the autonomy that I needed to gear up for success.”