A native of Atlanta, Ga., fourth-year medical student Rebecca Jeun’s interest in tropical diseases began when she was a second-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.
She began working with Dr. Rojelio Mejia in Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine in the Laboratory of Clinical Parasitology and Diagnostics. Her area of research is intestinal parasite infections in endemic populations. These infections disproportionately affect those in poverty who lack access to adequate sanitation and healthcare resources. Intestinal parasite infections have been associated with long-term effects on cognitive abilities, stunted growth and developmental delays that can contribute to the cycle of poverty.
In collaboration with scientists from the Universidad Nacional de Salta in Salta, Argentina, Jeun and Mejia began a project using a real-time polymerase chain reaction, a molecular diagnostic method, to analyze intestinal parasite infections in a peri-urban community in Argentina. This method has better sensitivity and specificity than the traditional diagnostic method of microscopy.
This work led to an interest in extending her work in Argentina, and she applied for and received a grant from Baylor Global Initiatives to travel to Argentina in fall 2014 to start a new project that focuses on giardiasis, an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite, and its effects on the intestinal microbiome. She and Mejia traveled to Argentina to gather samples to prepare them for studies to be carried out back in the labs here at Baylor College of Medicine. They both also were invited to give a lecture on their work at a departmental meeting at the Universidad Nacional de Salta.
“I had a wonderful experience in Argentina, and I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to see the locale from which our research originated and that hopefully will benefit from the knowledge we gain from our collaboration with the Universidad Nacional de Salta,” said Jeun.
Jeun is interested in pursuing a residency in internal medicine.