Columbia University Medical Center


SPURS @ CUMC: A Biomedical Research Program for
Under-Represented Students


SPURS is supported in part by an NIH R25 grant (R25NS076445).

The SPURS Program, begun under the direction of Andrew Marks, M.D., Chair of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the summer of 2002, (then known as the Columbia Summer Research Fellowship Program) is designed to expand the pool of medical and biomedical research applicants from diverse and economically disadvantaged groups whose members have been underrepresented in medicine and biomedical research.

Provides intense research fellowship experiences on the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons campus to undergraduate students from Universities in the City of Greater New York. The experience is intended to (a) provide meaningful training in biomedical research, and (b) enhance the students’ ability to achieve a career in biomedical research and/or medicine by pursuing an advanced degree (either Ph.D., M.D./ Ph.D. or M.D.). In addition to specific training in the indicated research area, the students receive in-depth training in biomedical research methodology, including: (a) the design and analysis of experiments, (b) a critical reading of the scientific literature, through journal clubs, (c) the presentation of scientific results at laboratory meetings, (d) attendance at convened poster sessions, (e) the preparation of abstracts and manuscripts describing the results of experiments, and (f) career counseling and research ethics.
Offers a series of scientific and motivational talks. Speakers have included David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City; Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services and founder of Morehouse College of Medicine; Dr. Cecil Pickett, President of Research and Development at Biogen IDEC, Dr. Herman Taylor, Principal Investigator/Director of the Jackson Heart Study, scientists from Merck and Pfizer; Columbia University Deans and scientists and others.
Provides a generous stipend for all students.
Offers a series of cultural and recreational events designed to make the experience a full and rich one.

In the summer of 2002, nine students formed the first group to benefit from the Program. The success of that first summer is demonstrated by the fact that of the nine students, eight went on to medical school (Einstein and Downstate Medical Schools) or to pursue advanced degrees at Cornell, Columbia, Stony Brook, and Harvard universities.

The summer of 2003 saw 16 students enrolled in the Program, with equally impressive results.  Students that summer moved on to Cornell Medical School, research assistantships at Columbia, Sloan Kettering, and Hunter, and graduate Programs at Columbia and Stony Brook.

The 2004 Program, with 8 students, the 2005 Program with 11 students, and the 2006 Program with 13 students were equally successful– with four of the students going on to win prizes at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students ("ABRCMS") with the work

they did at Columbia.    Several students achieved other honors for the work done at Columbia. See Student Testimonial

The Program is privately funded.  It has been supported to date by grants from pharmaceutical companies, foundations, and private contributions.  Our goal is to provide places for up to 20 students from the CUNY senior colleges, or, eventually, other sources of promising under-represented students, under the overall direction of Dr. Marks.  In order to make this a successful Program, funding for student stipends, student housing, lab supplies, equipment, computer software and administrative support for these students must be found.   75% of the Program’s budget is direct payments to the students for stipends and housing.  Our operating budget for 20 students would be approximately $175,000.

Contributions are tax-deductible and can be made by contacting Dawn LaSalle at or phone 917.280.1806.

Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeon’s commitment to excellence sustains its position as one of the nation’s foremost academic medical universities.  Historically, Columbia continues to maintain its tradition of providing our prospective and current students the opportunity for superior education that extends back over two hundred years.  It is our goal and obligation to continue that legacy in producing high caliber individuals interested in a medicine and or biomedical research.

Progress in medicine is achieved by successive generations of new doctors, scientists and other health care professionals whose studies and training allow them to develop successful new therapies.  More than ever, there is a need for health care professionals who combine sensitivity and understanding of their patients with the expertise to produce correct diagnoses and to administer the appropriate treatments.  With this commitment to education through our Program, P&S is ensuring that medicine and biomedical research retains its essential human element.  It is our mission to provide access to all our brightest students, regardless of their background, who wish to pursue their dream in becoming the best doctors and or biomedical investigators possible.