Research forum highlights collaborative efforts of students, mentors.

By Lin Lofley 

Dr. Rene Galindo (left) and Dr. Philip Shaul (third from right) congratulated the oral presenters at the recent 55th Medical Student Research Forum, held on the South Campus.
Dr. Rene Galindo (left) and Dr. Philip Shaul (third from right) congratulated the oral presenters at the recent 55th Medical Student Research Forum, held on the South Campus. Oral presenters at the event were: Morgan Ritz (second from left) and Lawrence Wu, and Nicole Dahlson (second from right) and Anish Narayanan. Dr. Galindo was program director for the event, and Dr. Shaul was the keynote speaker.

More than 100 entries were included in the 2017 Medical Student Research Forum, one of the most high-profile events whose key is the ongoing student-mentor relationship.

Dr. Rene Galindo, Associate Dean for Medical Student Research and Program Director for the 55th annual forum, opened the proceedings by impressing upon the participants this very important concept. “There are two critical components that make this program so successful: You need the student, and you need the mentor,” said Dr. Galindo, Associate Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Pediatrics.

“Combine the enthusiasm of the student with the guidance and mentorship of the faculty member, and you have a combination that will make for long-lasting, meaningful experiences for both mentees and mentors,” he said.

Dr. Galindo petitioned the students attending to learn from the presented research, and to take measure of the mentoring on display in the resulting work of their fellow students.

Among 104 entries, four students made oral presentations of their work to the audience of nearly 200 of their colleagues and faculty mentors from across campus.

Oral presenters were:

Nicole Dahlson, second-year medical student (Clerkship 1), mentored by Dr. Joyce Repa, Associate Professor of Physiology, and of Internal Medicine. Topic: “The roles of lysosomal proteins NPC1 and LAL on macrophage polarization.”

Anish Narayanan, MS1, mentored by Dr. Peter Douglas, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology. Topic: “Developing a Novel Neurodegenerative Model of Blunt Force Trauma: What can worms teach us about Traumatic Brain Injury?”

Morgan Ritz, MS4, mentored by Dr. Adrian Rothenfluh, former Assistant Professor of Psychiatry. Topic: “The causes of Naïve ethanol avoidance in drosophila melanogaster.”

Lawrence Wu,  MS1, mentored by Dr. Jerry Shay, Professor of Cell Biology. Topic: “Induction of telomere dysfunction prolongs control of therapy-resistant melanomas.”

Dr. Philip Shaul, Vice Chair for Research, Director of the Center for Pulmonary and Vascular Biology, Interim Chief of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine, and Professor of Pediatrics, presented the keynote address.

In his talk, titled “How a single newborn infant launched the career of a physician-scientist,” Dr. Shaul relayed events early in his career involving an ill newborn infant who died shortly after birth as a result of pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lung circulation.

Dr. Shaul explained that this infant’s death was particularly difficult for him because at the time, little was known about the basis for pulmonary hypertension, and as a result, no therapy was available. This prompted him to pursue research in blood vessel disorders, first focused on pulmonary hypertension and then seeking answers about other circulatory diseases. Following a number of unexpected discoveries along the way, Dr. Shaul’s lab has recently made surprising insights about the role of blood vessel lining cells in type 2 diabetes.

In summarizing, he talked of how physician-scientists are inspired by their patients, and of the critical role of physicians in biomedical research.

In a poster competition held after the oral presentations, forum awards were given to:

  • William Prueitt, MS2, C1 – “Targeting Distinct Tau Strains and Tau Aggregate Sizes with Heparin and Heparinoids to Explore Differential Inhibition of Cell Uptake and Seeding.” Mentor: Dr. Marc Diamond, Director and Professor in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases.
  • Chayanit Sasiponganan, MS2, C1 – “Sensitivity of ultrasounds and AFP for detection of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with Cirrhosis.” Mentor: Dr. Amit Singal, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and in the Department of Clinical Science.
  • Shan Su, MS1 – “Corneal Stromal Remodeling After Photorefractive Keratectomy.” Mentor: Dr. W. Matthew Petroll, Professor of Ophthalmology.
  • Evan Barrios, MS2, C1 – “The Role of Foxo3 in B Cell Tolerance.” Mentor: Dr. Anne Satterthwaite, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and Immunology.
  • Michael Heffler, MS3 – “Segmentation of Whole Body Magnetic Resonance Imaging in neurofibromatosis Type 1 To Determine Tumor Burden.” Mentor: Dr. Avneesh Chhabra, Associate Professor of Radiology, and Orthopaedic Surgery.
  • Kristen Murphy, MS2, C1 – “Readmission and imaging outcomes in pediatric complicated appendicitis; A matched case-control study.” Mentor: Dr. Adam Alder, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Surgery.

Dr. Diamond holds the Distinguished Chair in Basic Brain Injury and Repair.

Dr. Douglas is a Southwestern Medical Foundation Scholar in Biomedical Research.

Dr. Satterthwaite holds the Peggy Chavellier Professorship for Arthritis Research and Treatment, and is a Southwestern Medical Foundation Scholar n Biomedical Science.

Dr. Shaul holds the Associates First Capital Corporation Distinguished Chair in Pediatrics.

Dr. Shay holds The Southland Financial Corporation Distinguished Chair in Geriatrics.

Dr. Singal is the Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care.