Advice for Egyptian medical students
Undergraduate research opportunities
The following PDF contains a (somewhat outdated) list of research internship opportunities that are available for undergraduate medical students and/or graduates from universities in Egypt (and probably other countries). I originally created this list for myself, when I applied to and eventually went to the OIST internship (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology) in Okinawa, Japan in 2013. My wife, Maha Elsebaie, then expanded and updated the PDF in 2018 when she applied to (and eventually went to) the NAMRU-3 (Naval American Medical research Unit-3) internship in Cairo, Egypt. Another friend of mine, Ahmed Alkashash, also took the NAMRU-3 internship. I also know a friend, Wegdan Rashad, who took the SURE internship at the University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. All of this is to say: these internships are possible, albeit quite competitive. Hopefully the following PDF will help (shout out to Maha for the updates!) .
Also, see below for some advice!!
Are there research opportunities for me?
If you're an Egyptian medical student or recent graduate, you should absolutely consider the idea of getting engaged into some research project! In a review we published in 2015, we showed how undergraduate research has a substantial positive impact on medical students' career choices and outcomes. If you are considering competitive residencies in the U.S., research is almost guaranteed to increase your chances of being a competitive applicant in the match process. So what should you do? Well, first, checkout the PDF above for a non-comprehensive collection of research opportunities for you to try applying to.
Second, checkout the following response I gave to an email I got from someone, a few years ago, who applied to one of the programs in PDF above and was frustrated because they were rejected:
Thank you for contacting me regarding your internship decision letter.
I am sure there are many more opportunities, and my advice is to keep going and not to lose stamina. I've had a look at your CV and it looks excellent. I don't have anything to say about it except the follow two comments:
1- You should always, always, always make a customized CV to every job you apply to. Never use the same CV for everything. In your example, **** internship is a lab research-based internship. Therefore it is expected that you will have some wet lab exposure before you apply. Hence, if you have any, it should be highlighted first on your CV. I couldn't find lab exposure on your CV, which is probably the main reason your application was overshadowed by someone else who did.
2- Stemming from my first comment, you should not dilute the "high yield" bits of your CV with "low yield" ones. That's why a custom CV, 1-2 pages, is generally recommended, highlighting the most relevant spot-on experiences you have.
My advice, if you want to get into **** or similar programs, you must have some wet lab exposure for at least 1-3 months in Egypt on a volunteer basis first. And of course, needless to say, your medical school overall GPA must be high (emteyaz or high gayyed geddan).
Regarding the different opportunities in Egypt, I recommend you follow the methodology proposed in this video to find actively publishing researchers in Egypt so you could ask them to join their labs.
Also, I know of a couple of labs that you may try to join. It's not gonna be easy, because a lot of people want to join these two particular labs, but I think you should give it a try for sure. I'm sure one thing will work out eventually :) There you go:
1- Dr Ahmed Attia - Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University.
2- Dr Mona Mostafa - Faculty of Science, Cairo University.
Also, NAMRU-3 is a U.S. embassy-affiliated biomedical testing and research institution that allows for internships (fully funded) in the summer, available to those less than 23 years old and not in their final year of medical school.
Looking at that list and advice nowadays, I would also add that a great way to gain "initial" experience to increase chances for acceptance into one of these fully funded programs (which are becoming more and more competitive) is to learn some programming. If you cannot find opportunities to gain some wet lab experience, then you should consider self-learning a programming language like Python. There are plenty of tutorial around, this is one of my favorites. If you cannot find any wet lab opportunities in Egypt, and you are unable to get opportunities abroad either, then adding that skill to you CV and showcasing your knowledge somehow (eg Kaggle competitions) then you'll be in higher demand even (perhaps, especially) in next-generation sequencing and genomics labs.