Cultivating Health & Aging Researchers by Integrating Science, Medicine, & Aging (CHARISMA)

CHARISMA is a program that prepares undergraduate students from racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically underrepresented backgrounds to become clinical research leaders to address the health needs of an aging America. A diverse medical and scientific workforce is critical to ensuring that the knowledge available to future health care providers, researchers, and policymakers is informed by diverse individuals who are most familiar with the needs of an equally diverse older population.

To increase diversity in medicine, science, and the aging-related clinical research workforce, CHARISMA offers eligible students a variety of research training and clinical shadowing opportunities, including:

1) a didactic curriculum focused on aging-related conditions and diseases across the lifespan, and the methodological approaches to studying these conditions and diseases,
2) a clinical research experience where students learn to recruit, consent, and interview patients to collect data as a part of a team studying issues relevant to hospitalized older adults,
3) a faculty mentored, aging-related research project, and
4) a clinical mentorship and shadowing program.

While training activities take place at the University of Chicago, undergraduates from all Chicago area colleges and universities who are in their first 3 years of undergraduate training are welcome to apply.

The University of Chicago is accepting applications for CHARISMA undergraduate fellows to begin in Summer 2020.  Applications will be due February 17, 2020, at 5 pm Central Time. Launch the online application portal here.

Prospective applicants are also encouraged to learn more about other undergraduate training opportunities with the Hospitalist Project here [link].

Program Timeline & Funding

CHARISMA fellows participate in the program for at least 1 year but are highly encouraged to complete the total 3 year program. Designed as a multi-year program, CHARISMA offers progressive research, clinical, and didactic experiences that build on one another as fellows advance through their undergraduate careers and culminate in an independent research project.

The CHARISMA program begins in the summer and continues throughout the academic year:

  • Summer 2020: CHARISMA program begins. Fellows complete a research assistantship with UChicago Hospitalist Project while working full time (37.5 hours per week) for 10 weeks. Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend.
  • Academic Year (Fall 2020, Winter 2021, and Spring 2021): CHARISMA fellows participate in the program approximately 10 hours per week. Fellows may be eligible to use work-study funds and receive payment during the academic year.

We will work with each accepted fellow to design a schedule that meets the needs of their school’s academic calendar and coursework.

Program Activities

This diagram highlights CHARISMA program activities across each year in the program with descriptions of each component below. Across all components, fellows receive mentorship from clinical and research faculty at the University of Chicago.

  1. Didactic Curriculum

CHARISMA Seminar Series & Journal Club
Fellows participate in a seminar series that will occur 1-2 times monthly over the course of the year during University of Chicago academic quarters (Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring). The seminar series will feature panel discussions and faculty presentations and will include topics in:

  • MSTEM aging-related research
  • Career development
  • Clinical research

The seminar series typically takes place on Mondays from 4:45-6:00 pm; changes to the schedule will be announced in advance.

Undergraduate Scholars in Translational Aging Research Training (U-START) Course
This mini course features faculty members at the University of Chicago presenting on aging-related research topics in the basic, clinical, translational, and social sciences. This course is offered during the summer quarter when CHARISMA fellows are engaged in program activities full-time.

CCTS 21007 Clinical and Health Services Research: Methods and Applications (encouraged, not required)
Offered at least once during the academic year, CCTS 21007 is a for credit course that will introduce the interdisciplinary field of clinically-oriented health services research with a focus on policy-related implications. Through exposure to theoretical foundations, methodologies, and applications, students without significant investigative experience will learn about the design and conduct of research studies. Non-UChicago CHARISMA fellows can work with the program director to determine if it is possible to receive credit at their home institution.

  1. Clinical Research Experience

The University of Chicago Hospitalist Project (UCHP) is a large clinical research infrastructure program that collects longitudinal data on all patients hospitalized on the general medicine services at UChicago, many of whom are older adults.

As research assistants (RAs) for UCHP, CHARISMA fellows learn to recruit, consent, and collect patient-reported data through an in-person interview during hospitalization for all patients admitted to the UChicago general medicine services and collect patient-reported data from these patients by phone one month after hospital discharge. The data collected is relevant to aging-related clinical and translational research and includes information on health and functional status, activities of daily living, social support, health literacy, frailty, and fatigability. Published research studies on aging that have resulted from UCHP are listed on our website here [link.]

CHARISMA Fellows will progress in responsibility and involvement in UCHP over time, so that as they learn and master certain skills, they are challenged with new responsibilities that expose them to the entire process of an active aging-related clinical research project.

During the summer, fellows will participate in the program full time and will work on the UCHP around 35 hours per week with an additional 2.5 hours per week in professional development and mentorship.

  1. Mentored research project
    Under the mentorship of a faculty mentor in aging-related research, Year 1 CHARISMA fellows will work together in small groups on a research project. It is expected that groups will meet on average twice per month with their mentor and will gain exposure to designing a research study, collecting data, and analyzing the data. Fellows will present their projects at an end-of-year presentation session in May.

Mentors may include faculty from clinical units such as general internal medicine, hospital medicine, geriatrics and palliative care, hematology/oncology, and others. Examples of past research topics include anemia, transfusion, and fatigability; activity patterns and frailty; clinical implementation of pharmacogenomics; impact of dental care on systemic health; and diet and kidney stones.

Fellows who continue in the program in Year 2 will have the opportunity to continue working with their research mentors. In Year 3, the fellow will work on an individual project that may lead to the development of a senior thesis, submission of an abstract to a professional conference, or a submission of a peer-reviewed journal article.

  1. Clinical Experience
    Fellows will have the opportunity to shadow physicians both in the hospital and in outpatient settings to gain exposure to clinical care for older adult populations.


  • Candidates must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Candidates must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at a Chicagoland college or university.
  • Candidates who are not based at the University of Chicago must be able to travel to the University of Chicago for training activities. Funds to help offset travel costs for students from outside the University of Chicago may be available.
  • Candidates should be in their first (Freshman), second (Sophomore), or third year (Junior) of undergraduate training when they apply to the program. First and second year students are strongly encouraged to apply.
  • Candidates do not need prior experience in the aging field or in clinical research nor do they need to have committed to a career in MSTEM. Candidates who are interested in learning more about these fields and/or exploring career options are encouraged to apply.
  • Candidates must be able to commit 12 calendar months to the program, including 37.5 hours per week during the Summer Quarter and approximately 10 hours per week during the school year.
  • Because the focus of this program is to increase diversity in the research workforce on aging, individuals from one or more groups identified as nationally underrepresented in MSTEM research are eligible for the program. These groups include:
  • Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis, including Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see NOT-OD-15-089.
  • Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.
  • Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as:
    • Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels at
    • Individuals who come from an educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that has demonstrably and directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

How to Apply
Candidates should complete the online application form found here by the February 17, 2020.

Candidates will be asked to submit the following information. We understand that students early in their undergraduate career may not have a lot of experience writing a letter of interest or many experiences to list on their resume, so while these materials are not required, we strongly encourage their submission.

  • Undergraduate school, year, and major (if decided) (required)
  • Please provide a paragraph or two about why you are interested in this program and what you hope to gain (required):
  • Unofficial undergraduate transcript (optional)
  • Demographic information that will be used to confirm eligibility for the program (encouraged)

Candidates who would like to begin working on the Hospitalist Project as a research assistant prior to the start of CHARISMA should contact

Contact Information
Please contact Kelsey Bogue, CHARISMA program manager, at or 773-702-4401 with any questions.  You may also contact CHARISMA Assistant Director Dr. Micah Prochaska at

Core program faculty include:

David Meltzer, MD, PhD
Program Director
Fanny L. Pritzker Professor of Medicine
Chief, Section of Hospital Medicine

Micah Prochaska, MD, MS
Program Co-Director
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Internal Medicine

Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP
Program Assistant Director
Professor of Medicine, General Internal Medicine

Stacie Levine, MD
Program Assistant Director
Professor of Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care
Chief, Section of Geriatrics and Palliative Care

Shellie Williams, MD
Program Assistant Director
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care

Kate Thompson, MD
Program Advisor and Mentor
Associate Professor of Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care