Every summer, the University of Virginia School of Medicine (SOM) welcomes a group of 30-35 enthusiastic undergraduate students from across the country to participate in our Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP). Over the course of the 10-week program, the selected trainees benefit from an immersive research experience mentored by a member of the program faculty, participate in a professional development series, and attend communication workshops.
The SRIP receives over 400 applications for these coveted positions each year. Trainee selections are made based on academic performance, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. Previously, students would apply online and provide personal statements, while their paper transcripts would arrive through the mail and letters of recommendation would arrive via email. Then began the painstaking process of scanning the paper transcripts and matching each individual’s application with the correct transcript and letters of recommendation — over 400 times! This process consumed weeksof nearly fulltime effort by the program coordinator to compile the application packets, causing the program to miss out on many strong applicants because offers went out later than competing programs.
There had to be a better way to collect and process these applications.
Streamlining and Automating the Process
In May, the Program Director, Dr. Janet V. Cross, Assistant Dean for Graduate Research and Training, and the Summer Program Coordinator, Ms. Marya Johnson, undertook A3 problem-solving efforts. They formed a team that analyzed the current state of the process and identified opportunities to eliminate waste. As the team designed the future state, they saw an opportunity to leverage an existing resource. The prior year, the Biomedical Science (BIMS) Graduate Programs application had transitioned to the electronic platform, Slate. Recognizing the adaptability of Slate, the team worked with the Central Admission and Enterprise Application Admission teams to devise a complete application that will collect all the required information from the students as well as those providing recommendation letters, all through a secure, electronic platform.
The new-and-improved SRIP application went live on Sept. 1. A final assessment of the success of this Lean project must await the conclusion of the current admissions cycle in early spring. However, it is already clear that the new application platform will liberate weeks of work for Ms. Johnson and Dr. Cross, allowing them to focus on making offers earlier, attracting the best trainees to join our research teams, and developing educational programming for the participants. They anticipate that the streamlined process will also simplify the workload for potential applicants and improve the review process for the SOM faculty and BIMS students who participate in the admissions committee, allowing them to return to their research activities sooner. Overall, these improvements will enable us to continue educating the best and brightest students and setting them on the path toward contributing to the breakthrough discoveries of the future. Given that over 50 percent of our SRIP alumni go on to pursue PhDs, MDs, or combined degrees, the impact has the potential to be significant!
We thank Dr. Cross and Ms. Johnson for identifying the problem and undertaking the process improvement review, which led to such an elegant solution. We also thank Tracy Pettit and the members of her Central Admission team (Jacki Haney, Emillie Cobarrubias, and Alyssa Sellick) and the Enterprise Application Admission team (Briana Reid, Kristen Stanley and Jennifer Meyer) who worked with them to develop and ultimately build the new SRIP application. Finally, we thank the students, faculty, staff who support the SRIP in so many ways and allow us to provide a terrific experience for the trainees who are chosen to participate each summer.
Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD
Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology
Senior Associate Dean for Research
R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education