Since 2021, the Master of Science in Medical Science (MSMS) degree program at Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) has partnered with the RAND Center for Collaborative Research in Complementary and Integrative Health.
The RAND Center is a collaboration between the nonprofit RAND Corporation and institutions that train complementary and integrative health (CIH) practitioners. Its purpose is to leverage the research infrastructure at RAND to support collaborative research across, and in support of these professions.
The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.
SCU is currently one of 13 of the RAND Center’s member institutions who have a commitment to research and train Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) professions, including:
“Our collective success not only increases CIH research, but also supports researchers and faculty at CIH institutions to have greater influence on the research being conducted in their field. Everyone benefits—including, most importantly, the patients and communities we serve,” said Michele Maiers, Co-Director of the RAND Center.
“Having collaborative research opportunities with institutions such as RAND Corporation is a privilege,” said Raheleh Khorsan, Ph.D., program director, MSMS Program at SCU. “Currently, we have two MSMS Fellows who are participating with RAND Corporation research and this collaborative allows the MSMS Fellows to work with experts from other healthcare disciplines including biomedicine, integrative healthcare and social sciences. The MSMS program is always looking for more opportunities for team-based high-impact science projects. The MSMS program welcomes initiatives that support faculty and student transdisciplinary research that produces really novel, innovative healthcare sciences. The best way for integrative healthcare to move forward is to be willing to see the perspectives of other paradigms and involve best research methodologies to move the scientific evidence forward.”
For 2023, SCU has two recent Master of Science in Medical Science (MSMS) graduates enrolled in the MSMS 12-month Fellowship program, who are collaborating on RAND Center research projects to gain additional experience. RAND research projects are associated with SCU’s MSMS Fellowship, though participants are selected through an additional, and separate application to RAND.
Andy Shollar, SCU Class of 2022 MSMS graduate and Tiesha Tyson, SCU Class of 2021 MSMS graduate, are working together on a RAND Center research project involving production of a State of the Science review on homeopathic healthcare practices. Their review will examine the research quality of published homeopathy studies, and determine how research in that area may be improved going forward. “Though this differs from bench research or wet lab, conducting research projects like this one – with a group as well-established as RAND – will allow us to effect appropriate change at the institutional and, hopefully, the national level as well,” said Andy.
“Both the SCU MSMS Fellowship and the RAND research experiences have, and continue, to set me up to be a strong leader in my community,” said Andy. “Working with faculty and students over several multidisciplinary institutions has shown me when I need to step up and help guide others in the right direction, versus taking a step back to evaluate and ask questions. Skills like these are invaluable in the field of medicine because physicians are typically the leaders of healthcare teams. My exposure to this kind of environment through my leadership role is an opportunity that puts me in a position to be prepared for when I have patients and colleagues to both guide and listen to, on multiple fronts.”
“The Fellowship is opening so many doors and opportunities such as working with the faculty who taught us, working with and learning from the RAND Center, and having a role in creating an effective MSMS program at SCU,” said Tiesha. “RAND is a great opportunity to further my research skills while collaborating with wonderful people from various backgrounds. This is a wonderful opportunity to see and be involved with research led by heavy hitters in the field.”
The SCU MSMS Fellows are selected based on their potential to make a positive, long-lasting contribution to their academic discipline. The MSMS Fellowship has an emphasis on teaching courses and conducting research and provides funding for both coursework and extracurricular projects.
“Obtaining a fellowship not only allows aspiring grad students, medical fellows and postdocs to gain the financial means necessary to achieve their academic goals, it also helps them bolster their professional reputation as scholars,” says Dr. Khorsan. “A fellowship not only helps development of new skills, but it sets a candidate apart in the job market as future employers and funders may look at a fellowship as a marker of external validation of quality.”
“Both Andy and Tiesha were candidates with a clear sense of purpose, capable of articulating how the fellowship will help them achieve their long-term career goal,” said Dr. Khorsan. “Both graduates are solid in terms of their academic interests and plans, which transfers over into making them solid, qualified, and convincing applicants for both the SCU Fellowship and RAND Center partner projects, which is why and how they were selected.”
“As a MSMS student at SCU, I served the campus community as a Student Senator and was Co-Founder and Vice President of the Melanated Medics Club, while enrolled as a student in the program. Serving the campus community and implementing new programs and opportunities to ensure the success of students led me to furthering my pursuit as a Fellow,” said Tiesha.
“Throughout my time as an MSMS student, I was very involved with my peers and faculty/staff as the Vice President of the MSMS Pre-Health Club, and as the first tutor for the program itself,” said Andy. “A couple months after I had graduated from the MSMS program, Dr. Khorsan, MSMS Program Director, approached Tiesha and myself about the Fellowship opportunity. As someone who loves to get involved, share experiences, and help others grow, I couldn’t resist the invitation.”
As Fellows, Andy and Tiesha advocate for students to ensure their learning experience is as efficient and painless as possible, especially at a time when technology is rapidly evolving throughout the educational environment, as the MSMS program is fully online. They serve as moderators for current MSMS program students, attending class with MSMS students from Tuesday-Friday, and relay any feedback they may have to the faculty and staff so that necessary changes or adjustments can be made to improve their online learning environment. They ensure that MSMS students have a successful experience as they maneuver and progress throughout the program, tailoring the experience to their needs and providing effective communication and learning environments between students and faculty.
The Fellows also provide tutoring to MSMS students in all content covered throughout the duration of the program and help guide students in creating a timeline for applying to health professions programs.
“I think the most rewarding moments I’ve had throughout my fellowship are when students come back and tell me how I’ve helped them succeed in some way,” said Andy. “I know it seems a little mundane, but it continues to blow my mind that just months after being in their shoes, I can now come in and help students reach their goals, as well as actively see them grow in such a short period of time. It’s extremely gratifying and rewarding to know that sharing my experiences positions others for success.”
“To future and current MSMS students: I can honestly and sincerely say that though this program is short, it is – to this day – one of the hardest things I have worked towards in my life,” said Andy. “You will be challenged on a completely new level, but in the end, the work and time you dedicate to this program is work and time dedicated towards your goal of becoming a healthcare professional. Don’t be afraid to dig in and go hard to get to where you want to be. No one’s path is pre-determined or linear. You are exactly where you need to be right now and the work you put in will get you to where you want to go.”
For Tiesha, the biggest reward has come in the form of invaluable lessons learned from collaboration and building a solid support system. “In undergrad, we’re typically taught to individually be our best selves, academically. But with the MSMS program, collaborating and forming a reliable team helps you as you navigate this program. I also had to re-learn how to study, which involved breaking old and bad habits, and form new and better study habits. This program requires dedication and determination to cross the finish line (graduating and pursuing your goals). You may seem overwhelmed and unsure of yourselves, but do your best. The SCU MSMS faculty are very supportive and willing to help and build connections with previous cohorts. Lastly, be a part of the SCU community. Take on leadership roles, create an organization, participate in active SCU organizations,” said Tiesha.
Prior to earning her MSMS degree from SCU in 2021, Tiesha earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. “My goal is to become a doctor, preferably a General Surgeon or Forensic Pathologist,” she said.
And for Andy, prior to earning her MSMS degree from SCU, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida. “My career goal has always been to pursue medicine as a physician. I am currently applying to medical schools this application cycle and hope to begin my journey towards becoming a physician this upcoming Fall. However, throughout undergrad, and in my current role as an MSMS Fellow, I have always found myself leading others from an educational standpoint. I want to integrate my passion for education and medicine by eventually going into academic medicine so that I can pass on my knowledge and experiences to others that wish to follow the same path as me.”