The UAB Department of Surgery Pre-College Research Internship for Students from Minority Backgrounds (PRISM) provides promising high school students who are interested in careers in healthcare and medicine with a hands-on research experience under the mentorship of surgeons and peers. The internship provides students with the experience and knowledge that 1) allows them to explore medical careers, particularly in the field of surgery, 2) helps them understand the impact that research has in improving patient care and patient outcomes, and 3) prepares students to be more competitive for admission to college.

Five students are selected for our program annually. Over the 8-week experience, students complete a mentored research project. Research projects often involve a team approach with students at other levels involved (including undergraduate students and medical students). The experience also includes learning experiences through seminars and workshops, and supplemental activities including clinical shadowing to expose students to clinical practice and surgical careers.

Program Overview

The program aims to provide underrepresented high school students with an understanding and appreciation of the research process and how discoveries lead to improved patient care and patient outcomes. Participants are mentored by UAB surgeons, faculty and senior research staff. While a majority of the internship is focused on research, students participate in clinical experiences and attend a research seminar series. Students are required to give a research presentation before the end of their experience.

Important Dates

Application deadline: March 1, 2018
Latest notification of acceptance date: early April 2018
Program begins: Beginning of June
Last day of program: End of July


Students will receive a stipend in the amount of $1,000 for successful completion of program requirements. This is a full-time commitment, and students are expected to be present from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, for the full eight-week program. Students are required to provide their own meals, transportation, housing and parking.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Strong interest in research as well as a career in medicine.
  2. Must be a junior or senior in high school at the time of application.
  3. Must be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group as defined by the National Institutes of Health, which includes the following groups: African American, Hispanic, Native American, Native Alaskan or Native Pacific Islander. Individuals who are in the first generation of their family intending to pursue college are also encouraged to apply.
  4. U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status required.
  5. Grade point average of at least 3.5 recommended.

How to Apply

Interested applicants should complete the online application here and upload the required attachments, including a transcript, resumé and essay. One letter of recommendation is also required and should be submitted separately via this form by the individual providing it. The complete application, including the letter of recommendation, is due March 1, 2018, at 5 p.m. CST. 

Essay Instructions

In a maximum of two single-spaced pages with one-inch margins and in a 12-point font, prepare an essay that includes and addresses the following topics:

  • Brief personal and family background
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Career interests
  • Why you feel you are uniquely deserving of the opportunity above others
  • Discuss an experience or activity that you feel demonstrates your greatest strengths

Contact Kristi Herritz with questions at 205-996-7643 or


Eligibility and Application Process

What is the minimum GPA requirement?
There is not a minimum GPA requirement to apply. Students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher will likely be more competitive, but the difficulty of their course load will also be considered. Therefore students with a lower GPA are still encouraged to apply.

I have a flier that says only juniors are eligible to apply, but I am a senior. Am I eligible?
There has been a recent change, and there are still some outdated fliers circulating. However, seniors are welcome to apply.

Can I fax or email my application?
No, applications must be submitted through the program website.

My school cannot provide my transcript in pdf format. What should I do?
A scanned image of the original is acceptable.

What can I expect after I submit my application?
Finalists will be selected for an interview. You will be notified approximately 2 weeks after the deadline if you have been selected for an interview. Students accepted into the program will be notified by mid-April.

I don’t want to do research, but I want to shadow a surgeon and learn some clinical skills. Can I still apply for the program?
This is a research internship and participation in research is a primary component of this program. Participants will complete a research project, give a research presentation and attend research seminars. If you don’t want to do research, this program is not the right fit for you.

I’m a sophomore. Can I apply?  
No. Please wait and apply once you are a junior.

Why is the program limited to students from specific underrepresented racial and ethnic groups?
Our program is designed to enhance participation of individuals who are nationally underrepresented in health-related sciences. Therefore, our program targets the following racial and ethnic groups as defined by federal agencies as underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

I’m not planning to pursue a career in healthcare, but I might be interested in research. Would I still benefit from this program?
The research experience you will gain from this program will focus on medicine and healthcare and will encourage you to consider careers in research and medicine. Anyone interested in a career in medical research or healthcare would benefit from this program and is welcome to apply.

Program Focus and Requirements

Would I have to develop my own research project?
Students typically work on a team project with other students or help with ongoing projects. Students will work with their mentors and research teams at the beginning of the summer to define their research questions.

Will I be able to shadow a surgeon?
Students are allowed to shadow in the clinic for a maximum of 4 half days. Students are not allowed to observe in the operating room.

I have a family vacation planned in June. Can I be excused for a week?
No. The program requires a full-time commitment for eight weeks. Vacations need to be planned before or after the program dates.

I want to attend a summer camp but the dates conflict with this program. Can I be excused for a week?
No. The program requires a full-time commitment for eight weeks. Only school REQUIRED activities will be considered for an excused absence and requests must be made in advance of the program start date. The maximum number of days that will be considered for an excused absence is two.

Program Logistics

Will housing be provided for participants?
No. This is not a residential program. Students must have reliable transportation to and from UAB each day. Remote parking is available for students who will drive to campus at a cost of less than $15/month.

Will meals be provided?
No. Students are responsible for bringing or purchasing their own meals while on campus. Students should expect to use part of their summer stipend to pay for their meals. Occasionally (approximately 1 day per week) lunch will be provided with a research seminar.

What is the dress code?
Business casual is the expected dress code. Students should dress to impress. Khaki pants, dress pants, polo shirts, dress shirts, sweaters are acceptable. Jeans, t-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other casual clothing are not acceptable.


PRISM Application Submission

PRISM Recommendation Submission