Students learn to be scholars through research symposium

The 16th annual Henry J.N. Taub/James K. Alexander Medical Student Research Symposium was held Thursday, March 10, to showcase research from Baylor medical students spanning a variety of clinical and basic science topics.

Dr. Kline talks with guests before his lecture on global health.

Dr. Mark Kline talks with guests before his lecture on global health.

Dr. Mark Kline, the Ralph D. Feigin chair of pediatrics and physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, delivered the keynote talk as part of the symposium. He spoke on “Global Child Health at the Tipping Point: Lessons from the Field.” Kline discussed the evolution of pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment globally.

“We know that treatment is a powerful impetus for HIV testing, and testing is the first step to prevention. For too long children have been on the outside looking in. They have not had the same access to life-saving care and treatment as those in the developing world,” Kline said. “As we build programs around HIV/AIDS, we should be benefiting children with other serious medical conditions as well,” he added.

While Kline has devoted much of his career to addressing global health problems, medical students who participated in the symposium are just now learning how to approach finding solutions for medical issues. Dr. Monisha Arya, assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine discussed the significance of the symposium.

“It was inspiring to attend the Medical Student Research Symposium and see how many junior scholars were proudly and eloquently presenting their research,” said Arya. “I was most impressed by the students’ passion in presenting their results and what the next step would be to solve the health problem they were addressing.”

As a faculty member and mentor, Arya believes her role is to encourage young scholars to continue to think outside the box and push their proposed solutions to help solve the problems of their current and future patients.

Students presented their research posters in Rayzor Lounge.

Students presented their research posters in Rayzor Lounge.

“These are the young creative minds that aren’t stuck in our medical habits, customs or ways of approaching problems,” said Arya.

Each medical student who participated in the research symposium was inspired in a different way. Third place winner of the clinical research category Jean Yau was inspired to better aid those in her community.

“My research was driven by a desire to serve my community,” said Yau. “My primary goal was to implement a community health program that would positively impact local youth.”

Winners of the Medical Student Research Symposium each expressed what influenced their research, as well as what they believed to be the importance of research as a medical student.

Basic Science Research Winners

Research is important as a medical student because it is a great way of learning. Rather than memorizing facts, you are presented with a real situation and a set of questions that need answered, and you take an active role in learning in order to answer them. Research also really emphasizes the integration of medicine. Medicine is not stagnant facts to memorize and regurgitate but is instead a creative way of thinking and problem solving. In my case, the project was inspired by a patient, answered through basic science research and hopefully one day can contribute to screening and therapies in a clinical setting. In this way, exposure to research as a student emphasizes the relationship between research and clinical medicine and contributes to an academic perspective and advancement of the field.” – First place, Rachel Pferdehirt, fourth-year medical student, Catel-Manzke Syndrome and TGDS: A Phenotypic and Genetic Discussion and Literature Review

My work centers on the development of medical devices and use of technology in innovative applications to assist healthcare practioners and improve patient care. I was inspired by my desire to use my engineering and medical backgrounds to help people as well as through the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Mehdi Razavi, an electrophysiologist and innovator at Baylor College of Medicine. Being a medical student at a large research institution has given me great insight into how research is directly contributing to our understanding of disease processes and, thus, changing how we manage them. While my research and medical career is just beginning, the future of medicine looks bright, and I am excited to see what it has in store.” – Second place, Anand Ganapathy, third-year medical student, Contact Force Recovery Predicts Absence of Cardiac Perforation During Steam Pop Formation

My research was inspired by a visual impairment syndrome faced by some astronauts that NASA is currently working to better understand and hopefully prevent. We hope this project along with many others currently ongoing can give us better insight into the physiological processes in affected astronauts. Research is important to me because it provides the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to solve real world problems. Research also builds a set of skills useful for systematically analyzing and investigating clinical unknowns that I will face in the future.” – Third place, Michael Pohlen, fourth-year medical student, Effect of Body Tilt Angle on Internal Jugular Vein Volumes in Healthy Subject

Clinical Research Winners

Research enables us medical students to step outside of our memorization circle and begin to interact with primary data that must be distilled into clinical guidelines. Understanding both the strengths and weakness of data that goes into evidence-based medicine is essential in training up enlightened doctors rather than doctors who blindly follow the latest medical headline.” – First place, Taylor Kohn, second-year medical student, Karyotype and Y-Chromosome Microdeletion for Men With Testicular Failure: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Working with patients at Ben Taub and Harris Health clinics, I have seen unique challenges faced by uninsured and Medicaid-insured populations. Interested in oncology, I collaborated with Dr. Usama Mahmood at MD Anderson to research cancer disparities by insurance status. Performing research as a medical student, more than any other aspect of my education, has taught me to ask important questions, think critically and effectively communicate ideas.” – Second place, Stephen Grant, second-year medical student, Cancer Disparities by Insurance Status: An Evaluation of the Survival, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program

Research and analyses of outreach programs are necessary to evaluate their efficacy and to see how they can be improved. Many of us medical students want to volunteer our time and efforts to helping the community, and it is important to know whether or not we are actually having the desired impact.” – Third place, Jean Yau, fourth-year medical student, Knowing & Growing: Enlightening High School Students About Sexual Health In A Sex-Positive Way