Communication Home



OHIO medical students sweep international research contest

Top three prize winners of the American Osteopathic Association annual student international medical research contest will address seminar attendees  

Oct. 27, 2008 

Three Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine students, Catalina Soto, OMS II, Kimberly Jackson, OMS III, and Amy Zidron, Ph.D., OMS III, captured first through third places, respectively, in the pre-event abstract contest for the AOA’s Bureau on International Osteopathic Medical Education and Affairs (BIOMEA) 10th Annual International Seminar, American Osteopathic Medicine: Establishing International Freedom.

They each made 20-minute presentation to BIOMEA attendees on October 26. This year’s seminar took place at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas as part of the 113th  AOA Convention and
Scientific Seminar over the weekend.

Soto’s first-place project, “Prevalence of lead poisoning and lead-induced anemia among children from Soyapango, San Salvador,” developed out of her interest in international medicine. A native of Columbia, Soto said the project was a way to serve a Latino population. “I definitely have a deep connection to my roots and had always wanted to give back to my people,” she said. 

Classmate Mirna Martinez, OMS III, suggested the topic to Soto, who began looking into it. “As I did more and more research on the topic,
I got really excited about,” she said. “It was extremely challenging to
pick the perfect topic that could be ‘easily’ implemented in a third world country,” Soto explained.

Soto joined other OU-COM students who were traveling to El Salvador
to work with health care workers in inner city clinics and village “brigades.” The medical students were part of work by the Center for the Complete Development of Children and Their Families (CEDEINFA), a non-profit effort that serves Salvadoran children living in impoverished communities.

While there, she interviewed and tested more than 120 children during a two-day period, after walking door-to-door in the poor San Salvadorian neighborhood of Soyapango to seek parental permission for the project. 

Soto said she was warmly welcomed into San Salvadoran homes and often offered refreshments. “It reminded me of home. I’m used to that kind of treatment because that is what it is like in my country,” she said.  

Soto anticipated that as many as 20 percent of the children tested would show exposure to lead, primarily because of the industrial nature of the community and the poor living conditions. Instead, only about five percent tested positive to lead exposure. Soto hypothesized that with little motor traffic in the community and dwellings made of brick and mortar, lead was not prevalent in significant amounts in the immediate environment.

“I felt that by developing this project I was contributing to a good cause, since lead poisoning has many severe medical implications,” Soto said. “I became very intrigued as to how to find out if lead poisoning is an environmental issue in San Salvador.”

Soto received $5,000 to conduct the research from the Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education (CORE) Research Office. CORE is OU-COM’s statewide consortium of teaching hospitals.

“We saw the passion of her presentation and the motivation to carry the project forward,” said Grace Brannon, director of the CORE research committee, on why they chose to fund Soto’s project. “You need that in research.”

BIOMEA featured a poster session on student training, volunteer work and research related to international medicine. All three of the OU-COM students’ winning posters were displayed at the BIOMEA seminar and at the AOA convention for the duration of the national gathering of osteopathic physicians, educators and students.

Jackson, second-place BIOMEA award winner for the second year in a row, presented “Socioeconomic status contributes to a nutrition transition in Rural Kenya from 2005 to 2007.”

“Last year, I was the only OU-COM student at the international seminar. This is awesome,” Jackson, a third-year medical student, said of the awards. “I am so proud of how OU-COM is increasing involvement in research. RSAF (the Research and Scholarly Advancement Fellowship) and other research programs at OU-COM have prepared us well.”

Zidron, also a third-year student, took third place with her Kenya-focused research, “The impact of orphanhood on Luo children.” Zidron also participated in the seminar in 2004 as a Ph.D. student.

OU-COM’s sweep of the BIOMEA research contest illustrates a growing trend demonstrated by the college’s 2008 Research Day, an annual event that boasted a record-breaking 61 research posters by students and faculty this year.

According to John Schriner, Ph.D., director of admissions, this pattern may indicate a national trend of earlier research exposure, but it certainly reflects the priorities of OU-COM.  

“I am noticing that our applicants have a lot more research background, and that is absolutely something we value during our admissions process,” Schriner said. “We’re always interested in students who can add to the synergy of scholarly activity here at the college.” 

Gillian Ice, Ph.D., associate professor of social medicine, said OU-COM’s international programming, compared to other osteopathic medical schools, has attracted attention at the BIOMEA seminar in recent years. “We’re pretty up there as a program. I was really impressed with how well our students did this year."


  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016