The Emergency Medicine Research Associates Program (EMRAP) began as a vision of an Emergency Medicine physician at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) back in 1997. EMRAP was based on the idea of collaboration between clinical and educational institutions to allow for undergraduate "pre-health" students looking for real world clinical experience to aid clinical investigators in their ongoing research efforts in a live Emergency Department (ED) setting. Since it's conception at UCI, many other programs just like it have sprung up in different regions across the country, including the University of California, Davis (UCD), among many others). What's great about EMRAP is that not only do students interested in medical professions get access to a totally unique observational experience, but they also can get college credit for participating!
In the Spring of 2011, EM research faculty and staff at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor (SJMAA), decided to develop an EMRAP of their own in collaboration with the neighboring Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and under guidance from the current director of the UCI's program, Dr. Shahram Lotfipour. Within one year, this program has made a remarkable difference on the productivity of the research activities within the Emergency Department (ED) and continues to make wonderful progress every day, so much so that it already has room to grow to allow more students to take part.
Every Spring, students are recruited for participation and they are selected for entry into the program starting at the end of the school year (early May) to complete a full calendar year of service with the program, although some positions may be offered starting in the Fall as well depending on availability. Starting out, students, or EMRAP Associates, or "EMRAPers" as they are often referred to, are immediately exposed to life in the ED via shadowing assignments, and they are trained in the fundamentals of the research process, especially important topics like HIPAA, the informed consent process, and other logistical operations such as computers systems and hospital policies. Once "the basics" have been covered and covered...and covered, EMRAPers are exposed to a various number of active research studies, or "protocols," the procedures of which the research team follows closely to recruit patients if applicable and to collect the data the physician investigator is looking interested in. Once cleared to work independently, EMRAP Associates do exactly that over the course of the rest of the year, working about 8-12 hours a week worth of shifts in the ED with an additional 1-2 hour weekly class session held at the end of each week.
Not only do EMRAP Associates get to interact with patients on a daily basis while working up in the ED, but they are also given the chance to explore different aspects of clinical care through direct observation of the ED and OR, basic medical topic lectures and some cool hands on workshops. Associates who rise to the challenge may also be provided with opportunities to help with research development and even publication. And...those who excel particularly well in the program are usually invited back for another year as "Chief Research Associates" where they are able to experience research on a whole new level with responsibilities including study oversight, management, and quality assurance...which means working more closely with the researchers themselves throughout the entire life cycle of a study.
Participating in this program will at the very least help you decide what you do and don't like about medicine and research and how the two interact. At the other end of the spectrum, this program could help you get way ahead of the pack when it comes to knowledge of how medicine really works in practice, and it could help you build some great relationships with doctors, physicians assistants, nurses, pre-hospital providers, etc. along the way!