Students working on their presentations for their internships.
Students working on their research in a similarly-structured project (Summer 2019, Europe).

Service-Research Projects

What Are Service-Research Projects?

Unlike our shadowing programs, which focus on observing medical doctors in a hospital across multiple specialties, Atlantis Service-Research Projects (SRPs) are more internship-like. They’re an opportunity to learn full-time from an Atlantis Project Leader, inside an elite healthcare organization, in a real project with members of management and administration, while performing a highly impactful service – a unique mix.

Both of our two main program types, shadowing and SRPs, take place in exciting cities, and have a similar cost. But SRPs are very different from shadowing. Instead of spending, for instance, 3 weeks shadowing doctors in a hospital (which is how most Atlantis programs operate), SRPs have you spend that time in an office or similar work setting.

Together with other pre-health students, and under the direction of a Project Leader, participants generate research and insights that are beneficial to the host organization (which is always an elite institution with a recognizable brand).

The topic can be anything that is helpful to the host organization, but the organization is always directly or indirectly related to healthcare, and all Atlantis program participants are pre-health students (usually pre-med).

There are three benefits that SRPs bring to pre-health students: service, research, and brand name. Let’s address each of these in order in the sections that follow.

Service Opportunity

Participants learn from an Atlantis Project Leader who is in charge of the leadership and educational value of the program. But this learning happens by doing. Specifically, by doing a project that is impactful to the partner host organization. The project scope will vary from partner to partner, but all projects involve data-driven research, developing problem-solving frameworks, and communicating possible answers to high-level questions that the organization is facing. Projects are never focused on questions that leverage subject-matter expertise (i.e., the kind you’d have as an MD or a proven hospital administrator or a Ph.D. in something like Public Health); Service-Research Projects simply leverage smarts and a willingness to contribute to a great team and project, analyzing, researching, and presenting insights to management.

Students sitting around a table having a discussion.
Students coordinating their research with the Project Leader in a similarly-structured project (Europe).

Unique Research Experience

According to the pre-med advising office of Columbia University, an Ivy League Institution, “Medical school admissions deans will often say that they like to see that applicants have ‘exposed themselves to some methodology for producing new knowledge.’ They define this very broadly and thus it is not just limited to wet lab experience.” This is not an endorsement of our programs specifically, of course. Many other pre-med advisors suggest the same idea that Columbia does.

In the very unlikely event that you’re applying to MD-PhD joint programs, or to the few schools that specifically require academic research, our program’s model won’t meet that requirement (though it will very likely contribute in different ways). However, if you are applying to the majority of MD programs, which do not require (but may encourage) research, then our model may contribute to your application as a form of creating new knowledge in healthcare.

It will not be the kind of new knowledge creation that a Ph.D. student would produce, but the kind that a consultant advising a hospital non-profit management team on their strategy might use, for example. Think more practical and broad, less narrow and maybe less precise. In the end, only you can tell whether this experience may benefit your own unique circumstances.

Atlantis students kayaking off the coast of Spain (Barcelona, Spain, 2019).

Brand Name Recognition

Atlantis Service-Research Project alumni are in the small minority of applicants and entering med/PA school students, under 10%, who have actually participated in a real project in healthcare at an organizational/administrative level, much less at an elite institution, known for being a leader in its field. They are also some of the few prospective med/PA students who have experienced the type of leadership and management work that will increasingly be asked of them as they advance in their careers. This perspective of Atlantis Service-Research Projects alumni will be a unique contribution to any med/PA school cohort.

Students presenting a project.
Students presenting their research slides to a representative of our host hospital (Washington DC, USA, 2020).

Service-Research Projects: One Pre-Med
Alumna’s Perspective

Past Project Example

Date: 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Healthcare Organization: Children’s National Hospital, Washington, D.C., one of the best pediatric hospitals in the U.S.

Context: Preparation for the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment, measuring Childhood Opportunity in D.C. metropolitan neighborhoods and working with other organizations to promote racial equity in healthcare.

Executive Summary: Students measured what were major drivers behind low levels of childhood opportunity (measured by COI, Childhood Opportunity Index). They provided a historical perspective on D.C. neighborhoods, focusing on racial equity, and created community engagement tools.

Deliverables: Interim & Final presentations, Tableau visualizations, manuscript, interview guides including engagement tools (e.g., email & social media templates), focus group templates, stakeholder master list including their contacts, and historical write-up of D.C. neighborhoods.

One Consequence: Atlantis and Children’s National Hospital institutionally co-presented on this model and project at several leading academic conferences (including the very reputable ASPPH, where we presented in 2021).

Example final presentation slide from Children’s National Hospital.
Example final presentation slide of an Atlantis SRP with Children’s National Hospital, 2021.

A Real Project With Real Results

Our programs focus on learning-by-doing, specifically by producing research in the form of a slide deck that is presented to managers of the partner organization.

Sample slides from the internship presentations.
Section from a presentation on the SRP learning model given at the ASPPH conference, March 2021.

A Service-Research Project that Ran During the Pandemic, Was About the Pandemic, and Took Place in the Former Epicenter of the Pandemic in the Western World

At the San Matteo Hospital in Pavia, Italy, during the summer of 2021, Atlantis ran a Service-Research Project focused on the mental health of healthcare workers during the pandemic. Students learned from an Atlantis Project Leader by doing a project with this hospital. The project was done with and for some well-known doctors who were there when the pandemic first arrived (over a year before this Atlantis program took place). The project created analyses to support the hospital administration’s effort to improve the well-being of doctors, nurses, and all hospital staff at one of the first hospitals to fight the COVID virus outbreak in Europe and in the western world. The hospital found the work “truly remarkable and invaluable.” We expect, based on our experience, that many of the alumni of this program will be talking about their experience in medical school applications and interviews.

A slide showing how healthcare workers on the frontline experience greater adverse mental health effects than non frontline health care workers.
Example of final presentation slide made to hospital administrators (Pavia, Italy, 2021).
Map of Pavia, Italy, near Milan, showing the original epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, before it spread to the rest of Europe and the U.S.
Pavia, Italy, near Milan, was the original epicenter (over one year after this project) of the pandemic in Europe, before it spread to the rest of Europe and the U.S.
Atlantis students finalizing their research and analysis for the San Matteo Hospital.
Atlantis students finalizing their research and analysis for the San Matteo Hospital (Pavia, Italy, 2021).

This experience allowed me to make a global impact on healthcare.

Kazi HossainAtlantis SRP Pavia ‘21Mercer College ‘22

Language Skills Not Required

Almost all alumni have not spoken the local language. The Project Leader and other key individuals will all speak English.

The Children's National Hospital building.
The Children’s National Hospital building.
A view of the Roche Basel location.
A view of the Roche Basel location.

Some Of Our Partners

Children's National Hospital Logo.
Children’s National Hospital has consistently been ranked as one of the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1870 and serving the D.C. metro area, Children’s National is a respected leader in pediatric research and advocacy for children. It also houses the Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI), which was founded over 30 years ago as the first hospital-based policy center to focus on child health. Using a population health approach and managing the Child Health Data Lab, CHAI works on the ground and with policymakers to combat D.C. kids’ most pressing health issues and to address disparities in childhood opportunity. Our several past projects with CNH have all focused on CHAI.
UNICEF logo.
An agency of the United Nations, UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to reach the children and young people in greatest need. The world’s largest provider of vaccines, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality education and skill building, HIV prevention and treatment for mothers and babies, and the protection of children and adolescents from violence and exploitation. UNICEF is on the ground before, during, and after humanitarian emergencies, and over the past 75 years they have been leading advocates for the rights of children. Atlantis partners with UNICEF not only to benefit our students’ trajectories to medical school, but also because we believe the work of UNICEF needs to be more known to U.S. college students, as it already is to everyone in Europe, for example.

As a regional health agency, ATS Insurbia is tasked with identifying and planning for the needs of citizens in its territory by fostering the integration of healthcare services into the region. This includes facilitating contracts with public and private service providers, ensuring achievement of objectives set forth in a socio-health plan, and carrying out functions assigned to them by Regional Law. 
Roche logo.
As the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Roche creates innovative medicines, cancer treatments, and diagnostic tests for hospitals and labs around the world. With a unique combination of strengths in its two divisions – Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics – Roche is a multinational company recognized worldwide as an elite healthcare organization.

Developing a Strategic Theme for Your Med/PA School Applications

Where you spend your time will indicate your interests and passions to schools. If you plan to make a claim as an applicant (e.g., “I may be interested in pediatrics”), make sure that you have evidence to back it up (e.g., volunteer work or internships with kids).

Princeton Health Professions Advising(This is not an endorsement)

Having an Atlantis Service-Research Project on your resume may help you to strategize a theme for your med/PA school application. Variety and breadth are always important, but if you have a range of specialties in your bank of experience already, it can help to have a central theme. Just make sure you’re passionate about the theme, because it’s not worth it otherwise. And always make sure that your activities don’t come at the expense of your undergraduate GPA, which is crucial; a theme is never worth below-average stats. When you look at the examples below, ask yourself: if you ran a med/PA school, wouldn’t you, all else equal, want more students with unique themes, as long as they’re substantial, relevant, and meaningful themes? Here are just a few high-level examples of how themes could work:


Suppose pediatrics is the medical field you are most passionate about. You shadow in your hometown’s pediatrics unit, complete an Atlantis 360 Shadowing program in several countries (requesting that your rotations include pediatrics), and then participate in an Atlantis Service-Research Project with Children’s National Hospital in D.C., one of the leading pediatric hospitals in the U.S. This theme then informs your med/PA school applications and interviews.

International Cooperation

Suppose that international cooperation in healthcare is the theme of your med/PA applications. With Atlantis, in addition to experiencing healthcare via shadowing in one or multiple countries, you also experience a project that contributes to UNICEF, one of the agencies of the UN. You may then add other elements along this theme, for instance certain college classes on the topic, a senior thesis, or a club on this topic.

Healthcare Policy

Suppose that healthcare policy is the theme you have chosen for your med/PA applications. With Atlantis 360 Shadowing, you see various single-payer universal healthcare European hospitals and systems, and you compare them to what you have seen in the U.S. You may then supplement that with a Service-Research Project with a partner in either side of the Atlantic or even with two partners, one on each side of the Atlantic, since we run multi-country and multi-project programs. This provides a more administrative view into healthcare policy differences, which you can then supplement with clubs, conferences, articles, college courses, and a senior thesis on that topic, ensuring always that this doesn’t hurt your GPA, which is more important than these other things when it comes to applying to med/PA school. As a final note, keep in mind that, as you can see in videos throughout our website, Atlantis alumni are asked about healthcare system differences constantly and at length in their med/PA interviews, and alumni often believe this played a big role in their admission to med/PA school.

Watch the below video, where Atlantis (shadowing) alumni explain how they brought healthcare system differences to their med/PA applications to highlight their cultural competency; the same phenomenon can happen with Service-Research Projects alumni, since they also witness differences in systems in a very unique way.

Business & Healthcare

Suppose that business & healthcare is the strategic theme for approaching your med/PA school applications. After completing a Service-Research Project with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies, you also shadow with Atlantis in a private hospital in Spain and a public one in Italy. You combine those experiences with your U.S. experiences, including possibly relevant coursework, a senior thesis, or other elements, and you have a theme that is relevant, timely, and rare.

How Does Atlantis Partner with Such Elite Host Institutions, when Study Abroad Programs Generally Don’t?

Am I paying to work?

Our programs are fundamentally a learning program and not a work experience per se. The primary focus is students’ learning, guided by a world-class project leader, and the project, done with and for a top institution, is meant to facilitate that learning. It’s a win-win: students are able to learn with elite institutions, and the institutions benefit. Though students aren’t working for the elite host institution, they learn just as much or more than if they were working for them. Moreover, the institution builds extra awareness among future American healthcare leaders.

Is it fair that students can get exposure to these selective institutions by paying rather than applying to an internship there?

That would be unfair if that were the case, however, keep in mind these institutions are not hiring Atlantis students as interns. They partner with Atlantis as a whole, and we bring students together, while making the programs far more achievable to students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. We do not pay the organizations, nor do they pay us. We partner with them as part of our mission: to help build a world where doctors love their jobs and their patients can sense that. Through Service-Research Projects, our vision is that society ends up with more globally aware citizens and future healthcare professionals that are passionate and competent.

In the case of nonprofit hosts, how do they benefit from this?

Nonprofit institutions will not only become even more known among future doctors and their university communities, but institutions will also benefit from the actual project done by Atlantis students. And again, keep in mind that these institutions are not hiring Atlantis’ students as interns per se. Note, importantly, that we do not pay the host institutions nor do they pay us. It’s a win-win program since our students learn and the host benefits through the project (and through greater awareness of their institution).

Atlantis Has Presented the Proven, Innovative SRP Model at Several Top Healthcare Education Conferences

These several conferences include the 2021 annual meeting of the ASPPH, the top healthcare education conference in its field in the world.

Title slide of the ASPPH Atlantis Presentation.
Title slide of the ASPPH Atlantis Presentation.

Medical school admissions deans will often say that they like to see that applicants have “exposed themselves to some methodology for producing new knowledge.” They define this very broadly and thus it is not just limited to wet lab experience. A senior thesis in anthropology or a summer doing clinical research would fulfill this expectation as well as lab research.

Proven Learning Outcomes

A PhD-authored small study of approximately 100 alumni of the model that we describe here as Service-Research Projects showed that 92% progressed in several important professional competencies. Although this is a small sample, the results are promising and are aligned with what we hear from students informally.

Read More

Students ranked their progress on a range of professional competencies including:

  • Assignment management
  • Analytical skills
  • Personal interaction (emotional intelligence)
  • Ethics and professionalism

Overall, ~92% of students either “strongly agreed” (71%) or “agreed” (22%) that they had progressed on these core competencies. The overall average rating was 4.63 on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree).

Please note that the study above is a separate study from the (larger) study on the impact of Atlantis shadowing programs on (specifically) medical school competencies, even though their conclusions are similar (93% versus 92% of students progressed on key competencies).

Interested in Service-Research Projects?

Visit our cities page and select “Includes Service-Research Project” from the dropdown. Projects always have the word “Project” on the program name, whereas a city name by itself denotes a Shadowing program. Keep in mind that you will see some Projects by themselves, and some combined with either other Projects, or Shadowing programs, or both. If you limit your price range on the price option, you will eventually not see combinations, but just single Projects.

Watch Video: 20+ Alumni Now In Med School Explain:
Atlantis Is a Major Reason I Got In Here

These students participated in shadowing programs (not Service-Research Projects), but notice how med/PA school interviewers often asked these alumni about the uniqueness of their experience comparing developed-country healthcare systems, and how these alumni believe these conversations in interviews helped them get into medical/PA schools. Service-Research Projects are even more unique than shadowing, but they also highlight healthcare system differences, so the same effect applies.

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