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Two sociology students; Sameen Meshkin and Marwa Eltiab awarded Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship 2016 Summer Fellowships

April 13, 2016

Two Medical Sociology students, Sameen Meshkin and Marwa Eltiab were awarded VCU Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship 2016 Summer Fellowships (UROPs). Susan Bodnar-Deren serves proudly as their faculty mentor. The Sociology Department is so proud of our students and Susan Bodnar-Deren for her tireless work with students!


Sameen Meshkin’s project, Preserving a Sense of Honor, Conscience, and Dignity during Medical School for the Physician-Patient Relationship is an interdisciplinary study, that epitomizes the power of collaboration between the School of Medicine, and two College of Humanities and Sciences departments, Sociology and Biology. In addition, this project meets a number of pillars put forth by VCU’s Quest for Distinction, and has the capacity to ultimately translate behavioral health research to the bedside and practice of medicine, impacting future and current health practitioners and their patients. Sameen’s project and proposal was the highest ranked of all submissions within the College of Humanities and Sciences!

Mr. Meshkin is a biology major and future physician, who is doing independent study work with me grounded theoretically and methodologically in medical sociology. Sameen has spent his tenure at VCU preparing for medical school and his chosen career, which of course, includes shadowing doctors, working as an international medical scribe, hospital and nursing home volunteer; and through these activities, he has witnessed how some practitioners seem to lose sight of their calling to respect and heal others. Sameen seeks to understand how and why this may happen; for he knows first-hand that almost all who enter the field, do so to help others through not only intellect and expertise but also through respect and compassion.  However, for those of us who study doctor/patient interaction, we know all too well that something happens to certain individuals during the journey from medical school to physician, which leads some to lose sight of respect, compassion and humanity.

Research has found that best medical practice is evidenced by those practitioners who adhere to the principles put forth by the Geneva Declaration, view their work as sacred and are guided by what many may label a “higher calling” (Curlin et al., 2011). As a result, Sameen has proposed a unique, ambitious and important study that looks (via mixed methods) at how the medical school curriculum facilitates or prevents adherence to the qualities aspired by the Declaration of Geneva, and how a sense of calling, operationalized through religion and spirituality, affect doctor/patient interaction.

Marwa Eltaib’s project, entitled Refugee Health in Central Virginia also meets a number of pillars put forth by VCU’s Quest for Distinction, especially as it pertains to Global Health.  Marwa is a double biology/sociology major who also plans on entering medical school as soon as she graduates from VCU. Marwa has all of skills to be a fine future physician and global health practitioner.  Marwa’s commitment to global health can be seen in the work that she is doing at VCU. Marwa is the president of the VCU 501c3 organization “Bhekanbantu Children’s Organization”.  This organization works on behalf of, and raises money, to support children infected and affected by the HIV/AIDs epidemic in northern Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Her project, builds upon her interest and commitment to global health and is an exploratory study on the health and wellbeing of refugees in Central Virginia. She is examining if there is an association between depression levels of long-terms vs short-term refugees and their overall health? It is through a thorough understanding of the correlates of health and well-being of any population that researchers and clinicians can move forward to translate their research to meaningful programs and interventions that improve health. Marwa’s interest in immigrant health does not stop in Virginia. Ms. Eltaib will continue this important work during her semester in France, with refugees in that country.

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