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Research Day highlights student and faculty medical research at OU-COM

Diabetes, spinal manipulation, cancer treatments showcased at event


By Richard Heck 

Held for the first time in the sweeping atrium of the new Osteopathic Heritage Foundations and Charles R. and Marilyn Y. Stuckey Academic & Research Center, the 9th annual Research Day at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine showcased 36 research projects.  Topics of the presentations included treatments for diabetes and cancers, lower back pain and muscle strength, blood flow and even the role of social media in medicine, among others.

“We are fortunate to have faculty who clearly understand the importance to develop research expectations in our students,” said Dean Jack Brose, D.O. 

Research and medical education go hand-in-hand, Brose said, and encouraging medical students to engage in such exploration, remains a key component of OU-COM’s curriculum and mission.  

“Students are coming to us now with a far greater research interest than before, and we encourage that by supplying them with the skills and expertise,” Brose noted. 

Research Day typically features many second year medical students who began work on their projects nearly as soon as they arrived at OU-COM more than a year before, said Jack Blazyk, Ph.D., associate dean for research.

“We are trying to breed the next generation of clinical researchers,” Blayzk said. “The sooner they get started, the higher the likelihood that they will continue to pursue research in their medical careers.” 

Two awards were presented to students, one in basic research and the other in clinical research.

Jessica Vincent, OMS II, took first place in the basic science category, with the topic “The Effects of Whole-Body Heating and Cooling on Cutaneous Blood Flow Control Mechanisms in Non-Glaborous and Glaborous Skin.” 

Lubaina Presswala, OMS II, whose research poster took first place in the clinical research category, participated in a project associated with a clinical research trial,  funded by Sanofi-Aventis, now underway at the Appalachian Rural Health Institute’s Diabetes/Endocrine Center at OU-COM. Her project, “Intensive Insulin Therapy as the Primary Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Case Study,” allowed her to work with OU-COM faculty members and noted diabetes researchers Frank L. Schwartz, M.D., and Jay H. Shubrook, D.O. 

“I had never been exposed to diabetes, so when the chance to work with cutting edge research came up, and given how diabetes impacts so many people in Southeast Ohio as well as others, if (I) can do research to help them, then it’s definitely going to help me become a better physician,” Presswala said. 

Like Presswala, medical students conducting research at OU-COM learn about the importance of research in patient care, and they also gain important exposure to the process of scientific and medical grant funding from private companies such as Sanofi-Aventis, federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), national organizations such as the National Rosacea Society, and private organizations such as the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations.

Many OU-COM faculty and staff annually receive such grants to conduct their research, and many students participating in this year’s research day contributed to projects related to those grants.

For example, the work of David A. Goss Jr., OMS II, was supported by a research grant from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, in addition to a Research and Scholarly Advancement Fellowship awarded by OU-COM. He examined the effects of spinal manipulation on corticospinal and stretch reflect excitability in patients with chronic low back pain.  

Goss cited the support and encouragement he received from his mentor, Brian Clark, Ph.D., during work on his project. With Clark’s assistance, Goss has applied for an additional grant to continue his study with a larger sample.

“Looking back, I was really motivated by Dr. Clark, who really facilitated my experience and taught me the basic skills and to really hone my project.  He taught me a lot and especially kept me going,” Goss said. The research experience not only assisted Goss with better understand the literature used, but also validated his learning of osteopathic manipulation and evidence-based protocols as part of his medical education, he said. 

Jacqueline Fisher, OMS II, whose project was supported with a grant from the National Rosacea Society, said her research experience strengthened her interest in dermatology. Fisher examined the effects of cutaneous specific autonomic nervous blockade on skin blood flow oscillations in humans. After shadowing Dawn Sammons, D.O. (’06), Fisher said, “the minute I saw this topic, I really wanted to get involved.”

Fisher said the experience so far has helped her medical education with better understanding of medical and research articles, as well as her clinical skills since her project involved working with patients. She plans to continue further research into the topic.

The OU-COM Office of Research and grants reported that research grant revenue exceeded $3 million for the first time during fiscal year 2010, and the number of active research grants also was at a record high.

OU-COM continues to work toward the goal on increasing the amount of federal grant funding received, particularly from the NIH, which serves as the benchmark for research stature among U.S. Medical schools. Annual revenue from NIH research grants at OU-COM has tripled since fiscal year 2006 to more than $1.25 million in fiscal year 2010.

“We have quality research here, and that is the important thing. These are bright, very smart students,” said Jessica Wingett, manager of the OU-COM Office of Research and Grants, who coordinated this year’s event.

This year, research projects were judged by the following:

Basic Science: Karen Coschigano, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular/cellular biology; Kenneth Goodrum, Ph.D., associate professor of immunology; Fabian Benencia, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology.

Clinical Research: Joe Bianco, Ph.D., research scientist; Jackie Wolf, Ph.D., professor of social medicine; and Randy Colucci (’98), D.O., M.P.H.,  assistant professor of family medicine.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016