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Summer trauma research program offers students hands-on experience
Provides opportunity to see connection with patient care, work with physicians

First row from left: Research Specialist Dr. Teresa Wood, Emily Herfel, Merissa Ferguson, Jill Pattison, Trauma Program Medical Director Dr. M. Shay O'Mara., Dr. Grace Brannan. Back row from left: Grant Medical Center President Vincent Yates, Nick Pettit, Andrew Vang, Aliaksandr Ramaniuk, Paul Bonne, Neysa Dominguez, Trauma Program Director Vickie Graymire.

(ATHENS, Ohio – Aug. 26, 2013) Eight students who just finished their first year at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine spent part of the summer conducting research and shadowing physicians at OhioHealth/Grant Medical Center in Columbus.

The group participated in a new eight week program called the Summer Research Intensive, sponsored by the hospital’s Trauma Research Program.

“The goal of the Trauma Program’s Summer Research Intensive was to encourage first-year medical students to choose careers in clinical and translational research aimed at improving care for trauma patients,” said Teresa Wood, Ph.D., trauma program research specialist. “This comprehensive program gave students the opportunity to participate in translational research under the guidance of the Trauma Program’s expert surgeons.”

Grant Medical Center, one of OhioHealth’s nationally ranked hospitals, has a Level I Trauma Program that is one of the busiest in Ohio with more than 4,300 patient admissions last year. The program has maintained American College of Surgeon’s verification since 1993.

Research is one criterion that Level 1 Trauma Centers must meet in order to maintain verification, Wood said. Even so, the surgeon experts at Grant Trauma do not focus on research because it is a requirement. They conduct research because they are always seeking ways to improve the care of trauma patients. The entire Trauma team is highly patient centered, she said

“We have the opportunity to work with the community we serve at one of the most stressful times in their lives. Therefore, we have an obligation to provide the best possible care and research is one way that we make certain that happens,” Wood said. “This past year, Grant Trauma increased their research productivity more than 69 percent and are now focused on leading research for trauma care into the future. Our goal is that our Trauma Research Program will achieve the same level of excellence as our clinical program has become known for in recent years.”

In addition to research, students made clinical rounds with surgeons and observed the care of trauma patients in the emergency room, surgery and intensive care units, as well as in the hospital’s Trauma Intermediate Care Unit.

The summer program was designed to teach the students about the research process so that when they move into their third year rotations, then eventually into a residency after graduation, they will be able to take the lead on their own research programs, Wood said.

“After participating, I would definitely want to do more research,” said Merrissa Ferguson, who created a research study on stress ulcer prophylazis during the program. “I am already hoping to return to the Grant family one day to finish my research on stress ulcer prophylaxis, and to participate in other research programs as well. Even though this was my first research experience, I found it fascinating, fun, and interesting.”

Ferguson conducted a literature review to gather information on stress ulcer prophylazis, then with the assistance of Grant staff members, developed a plan for researching the topic and authored a petition and an IRB proposal, which will be reviewed next month. “Prior to this internship I had painted a picture in my mind of what research was like, and was not actively seeking to participate in research roles. But the staff at Grant made this such an amazing program. They not only changed my mind about research, but left me wanting to do more,” she said.

Paul Bonner found it rewarding to spend his summer participating in research projects, taking part in patient rounds and watching physicians perform surgeries. “This allowed us to see clinical medicine as it was practiced as well as see the reasons the physicians were asking the research questions that they were asking,” he said.

Bonner was assigned to work with two physicians, each of whom had their own research projects. “Fortunately for me, each physician was in a different stage of their research project so I was able to participate in several stages of the research process as a result,” he said. Bonner collected data for one physician and conducted proposal and literature review for the other. Bonner also met and worked with a variety of residents, other medical students, nurses and patients, providing a taste of what his third and fourth year clinical rotations will be like.

“This experience has completely changed my outlook about research,” Bonner said. “I chose to go into medicine because I want to help people and improve their quality of life. Participating in research at Grant has caused me to look at clinical medicine in a different way by showing me how to recognize when I see a problem and the tools to know how to fix it.”

Emily Herfel already had engaged in research at her undergraduate institution, but wanted exposure to research that involved patient interaction. “What I didn't know in advance was how wonderful the program was going to be. I learned the ins and outs of clinical research, and how my personality plays a role in it. I learned that I really like research when it is combined with patient interaction, meaning I am able to tangibly see the reason that I am collecting raw data. I learned that I really do like research and that it can be an extremely powerful learning tool.”

Grace Brannan, Ph.D., executive director of the research office for the Centers for Osteopathic Education and Research, helped develop the program and said all of the students expressed similar reactions.

“The students gained so much from this transformational opportunity not only because they were able to work with dedicated and brilliant physicians, but more so because they were able to gain firsthand experience on how research can benefit patients and reform healthcare,” Brannan said. “If fact so many of them were so energized by this experience that they are planning on engaging in more research in the future.”

Although he never before considered including research in his medical career, taking part in the program changed Bonner’s outlook. “Now I can’t imagine practicing without participating in research in some way, shape or form,” he said.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016