Scanlan Family Scholars – AATS Foundation

Summer Intern Scholarship


The Scanlan Family Scholars – AATS Foundation Summer Intern Scholarship program was established to introduce the field of Cardiothoracic Surgery to first and second year medical students in a North American medical school and to broaden their educational experience by providing an opportunity to spend eight weeks during the summer working in a North American Cardiothoracic Surgery Department.


2021 Recipient

Michal Schafer

Michal graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Chemistry & Biochemistry in 2013. He then pursued his graduate studies in biomedical engineering at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus as a member of Dr. Dunbar Ivy’s pediatric pulmonary hypertension lab at Children’s Hospital Colorado. His research focused on investigating flow hemodynamics in pulmonary hypertension using 4-dimensional flow MRI imaging. In 2015, he earned a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering and continued his PhD studies, analyzing intracardiac flow patterns in congenital heart disease. In 2015, Michal joined the research team of Dr. Max Mitchell and began work on flow analysis in patients undergoing surgical repair of Tetralogy of Fallot and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Under the mentorship of Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Ivy, Michal earned his PhD in 2018 in biomedical engineering. Michal Is presently a second-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is continuing his research efforts in cardiovascular imaging with the cardiothoracic team at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

2021 Recipient

Sohil Patel

Sohil Patel was born and raised in the Bay Area and attended Columbia University, where he obtained a B.A. in biology and a concentration in computer science. At Columbia, he worked in a microbiology lab examining translation at rare codons in E. coli as well as investigating the role that antibiotics play in plasmid replication. As a first-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco, Sohil has developed a keen interest in cardiothoracic surgery and is currently responsible for organizing faculty-led panels for medical students as part of UCSF’s surgery interest group. This summer, he will be working in the San Francisco VA Medical Center under the guidance of Dr. Elaine Tseng and Dr. Liang Ge, where he will examine the risk of aortic dissections in patients with aneurysms.

2020 Recipient

Irina Kolesnik

Irina earned a BS in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Maryland, College Park. During her time at UMD, she worked as an EMT which exposed her to a wide range of patients and sparked her interest in surgery. Irina is a first year medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she takes every opportunity to gain more exposure to surgery. This is how she became involved with research in the cardiothoracic surgery department under the mentorship of Dr. Bartley Griffith and Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin. Irina’s summer research project will focus on characterizing Perioperative Cardiac Xenograft Dysfunction (PCXD) in pig to baboon cardiac xenotransplantations.

2020 Recipient

Cameron Best

Cameron graduated from Yale University with a BA in Linguistics in 2013.  During his undergraduate career, he joined the laboratory of Drs. Christopher Breuer and Toshiharu Shinoka in the Vascular Biology and Therapeutics Program at the Yale School of Medicine.  His work focused on the development of novel biodegradable scaffolds for vascular tissue engineering.  In 2013, he relocated with the laboratory to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he was involved in the first FDA-approved clinical trial investigating the use of a tissue-engineered vascular graft for the surgical palliation of congenital heart defects. Between 2016 and 2019, Cameron earned a PhD in Biomedical Science at the Ohio State University. In 2019, he entered the Ohio State University College of Medicine’s Class of 2023. He is excited to experience firsthand the clinical processes related to cardiothoracic surgery and continue his research supporting the translation of tissue-engineering technologies to the pediatric population.

2019 Recipient

Rachel Yang

Rachel Yang earned her BSE in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2018. At Duke, she was involved in cardiac electrophysiology research, working in Dr. Nenad Bursac’s lab on rescuing impaired conduction in a fibrotic model by using engineered ion channels. As an incoming 2nd year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco, Rachel is further exploring her interests in cardiac surgery under the mentorship of Dr. Elaine Tseng. Her summer research project will include developing patient-specific models of transcatheeter aortic valve replacement to predict valve durability and indicate risk of post-surgical complications.

2019 Recipient

James Whitbread

James Whitbread is originally from rural eastern Washington state, and attended Washington State University (WSU) for his undergraduate education. There, he graduated with a B.S. in Theoretical Mathematics and minors in Sociology, Chemistry, Molecular Biosciences, and Biology in 2018. At WSU, he was a researcher in Mathematics Education, Neuroscience, and Reproductive Molecular Biology, studying everything from student conceptualizations in a fully flipped Introduction to Mathematical Proof course, to the effects of Retinoic Acid Receptor Alpha on spermatogenesis in mice. He also worked as an Undergraduate Instructor of Mathematics and a leader in mental health advocacy and mental illness destigmatization. Currently, Joey is a rising second year at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. There, he is developing his interest in Surgery and CT Surgery through his work in the Cardiac Surgery Research Lab and the Cardiac Surgery Division at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is currently investigating VAD’s effect on heart transplantations under the direction of Dr. Ahmet Kilic, and is also the president of his school’s CT Surgery Interest Group and Math in Medicine Club. In his spare time, he tutors math for 8th graders at a local middle school, and loves to keep up his own personal passions for reading and writing.

2018 Recipient

Iris Liu

Iris Liu attended Dartmouth College, where she majored in Biology and minored in Applied Ethics. At Dartmouth, she worked as an HHMI scholar to study cancer signaling pathways, and she continued to work in cancer research prior to starting medical school at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). At UCSF, she has further developed her interests in translational oncology and thoracic surgery and is an intern at UCSF this summer under the mentorship of Drs. Johannes Kratz and David Jablons.

2018 Recipient

Kiah Williams

Kiah Williams is originally from Evergreen, Colorado and earned her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering at Dartmouth College in 2015. Kiah then worked as a consultant at ClearView Healthcare Partners in Boston for two years before joining the Stanford community. Kiah is now an upcoming second year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she is exploring an interest in cardiac surgery by working in Dr. Joseph Woo’s laboratory and routinely shadowing multiple cardiac surgeons. In the research setting, Kiah is continuing her lab’s investigation of how certain cyanobacteria may support the survival of cardiomyocytes. Kiah has been passionate about pursuing a career in medicine since childhood and is excited to continue working toward this ambition with the generous support of the AATS/Scanlan Family Summer Intern Scholarship. In addition to her research, Kiah enjoys serving as a Wellness Representative for her class, providing educational tea tastings for her peers as founder of the CommuniTea! initiative, leading the Cardiovascular Interest Group, and working as a teaching assistant for cardiac surgery skills and high school anatomy classes.

2017 Recipient

Benjamin Smood

Attended the University of Oregon studying biology, political science, Spanish and chemistry. He taught 7th grade Science for two years before attending medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Benjamin is an intern this summer at Children’s Hospital of Alabama under the mentorship of Dr. James Kirklin.

2017 Recipient

Nicole Westergaard

Studied Health Policy and received an MPH prior to entering medical school at the Carver College of Medicine. Nicole’s academic pursuits are balanced between Cardiothoracics and health policy. She is an intern this summer at University of Iowa under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Turek.