Health professions schools value research. Participation expands your intellectual curiosity. Engaging in hypothesis-driven research allows you to learn research techniques, formulate hypotheses, devise methods to test them and then evaluate the results. Critical thinking skills, being able to read and evaluate data, analyze published articles, and your ability to work as a member of a team are all important skills. A research experience can help you gain oral and written communication skills, and will sometimes result in your participation on a paper, abstract or poster. Research mentors often write a letters of recommendation for health professions schools as they know you and your work personally.
If you are just beginning to consider research, you might first volunteer in a research lab, join a research team like Bass Connections, take an R-coded course, or find a work/study job in a research lab or office. Later, you might choose to enroll in a 1.0 credit research independent study. Students with strong research interests will often two research independent studies in their senior year, write an honors thesis and Graduate with Distinction. You can also find summer programs entirely devoted to research. While much research is done in the natural sciences like biology, chemistry, and neuroscience, you can also find research opportunities in the arts, humanities and social sciences. If you have an interest in academic medicine (i.e., M.D./Ph.D. programs), you will want to show them two or three years of research experience in your field of interest.
For information on research experiences, at Duke and elsewhere, see the Undergraduate Research Support Office website. The "Ideas for Finding Experiences" section (left margin) also has suggestions.