Millennial Medical Students Blaze A New Research Path

Editor’s Note: This article is written by Eric Sink, an EPX independent researcher and medical student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Eric has researched numerous interventions over the past year including EpxCOPD, EpxDiabetes, and EpxHeartFailure.

For generations, medical students have performed basic science and clinical research projects as a right of passage on their way to the M.D. Research experience can be an important aspect of a student’s residency application, and thus, many students feel particular pressure to get involved in research. Unfortunately, many of these projects fail to engage medical students with tasks appropriate for their expertise, or worse, fail to get off the ground all together. There are countless anecdotes of medical students who spent their last free summer performing data entry, filing papers, or sifting through medical records.

When I entered medical school last fall, I immediately felt pressure to get involved with research (so I can match into a good residency, so I can place into a good fellowship, so I can work at a good medical center…). However, I knew I didn’t want to perform the standard bench, animal, or clinical research. I was looking for something really different, something that would allow me to examine critical research questions and sate my desire to get involved in medical entrepreneurship.

I was extremely fortunate to join the Epharmix team, a Saint Louis-based digital health company founded in 2015 by medical students at Washington University. Epharmix’s product development model depends on cooperation between its business, computer engineering, and independent clinical research team members. Over twenty medical students from both Washington University and Saint Louis University now lead the creation and testing of digital health interventions for disease states ranging from heart failure to breast feeding to mental health. This medical student driven clinical research team is mentored closely by Dr. Will Ross and over 50 other faculty at WU, SLU, and other institutions in a research infrastructure built by Epharmix’s co-founder Avik Som, the Chief Medical Officer and WU MD/PhD candidate.

Working as part of the Epharmix team has been a special experience for me because I feel that I am part of an incredible team of entrepreneurs and future physicians who are striving to transform the standard of care across many medical specialties. Although I am early in my medical career, at Epharmix I am empowered with the tools to answer difficult questions, meet with thought leaders throughout business and medicine, and to help build a startup into a telehealth powerhouse. The research I have performed on interventions for COPD, heart failure, diabetes, and other diseases has done so much more than just check the research box on my CV–it has given me insight into underserved populations and deepened my empathy for these people who I will soon serve every day in clinic.

Research has always been, and will always be, a cornerstone of the medical establishment. Unfortunately, sometimes the application of research findings to patient care is insignificant. Epharmix is the rare opportunity to both create brand new novel medical processes and interventions, and see lives improved in the community near immediately. I am ecstatic to have discovered an opportunity to both contribute to the literature and potentially change the lives of ill patients across the globe.

Eric Sink

Saint Louis University School of Medicine Class of 2019

Clinical Researcher, Washington University in St. Louis

Advisors: Dr. Will Ross, and Dr. Melvin Blanchard.