Ben Souferi, a second-year medical student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, recently won a first-place award from the American Medical Association (AMA) for his research in eyesight restoration.
Souferi earned the first-place honor in the medical student Basic Science category during the AMA Expo Research Symposium this past November for his study involving the regeneration and implantation of new cone cells, the primary photoreceptors that impact vision acuity and color.
Over the past five years, in the laboratory at City College of New York, Souferi developed and tested his research. Souferi’s mentor, Mark Emerson, PhD, assistant professor of biology, helped him during each step of the process.
“Regeneration of cone photoreceptors is one of the most promising therapies for vision restoration,” Souferi said. “Their loss is one of the main causes of blindness.” He is hopeful that his research will aid in restoring vision to patients that have lost cone receptors or were born without them.
Souferi’s research is now under review for publication. “I hope that my findings will help other scientists gain further insight into their own research,” he said.
Research & development
Research has played a tremendous role in his life as an undergraduate student, a master’s student, and a medical school student, Souferi says. “I think all aspiring physicians should do research. All the things you learn in class are not always tangible, but once you’re in the laboratory and you can actually see the things you learn, it helps you understand even more.”
With undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology, Souferi was excited to delve further into his passion as a medical student. “I love the small aspects of biology and biological intricacies. I only learned about these topics in the classroom, but once I learned to apply this knowledge within the laboratory, I gained a deeper understanding of biology,” he says.
Trust the process
Souferi says it was difficult to summarize five years of research and data into a 45 x 45-inch poster and a 5-minute presentation. He began by putting all of his ideas into a PowerPoint and then slowly shortened it without sacrificing the message. “That’s when I stopped to make the poster,” he said. “The process of preparing for this conference provided me the opportunity to piece together years of experimentation into a clear and concise story. All my findings led up to this point.”
A challenge that Souferi is learning to manage is trying to be at the forefront of something when the next step is not always clear. “I review recent literature, discuss my findings with my peers and mentor, and with all my resources, I apply my own knowledge and take the next stride forward,” he says.
The next level
While he’s been involved in research since his undergrad days, medical school allowed Souferi to take his research skills to the next level. “Touro does a great job of solidifying our basic science knowledge and teaching us the various clinical manifestations of disease and research that the medical field uses to support its findings,” he says.
In the immediate future, Souferi is looking to gain a greater understanding of different kinds of laboratories and delve into clinical research.