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AMVETS money funds undergraduate diabetes research

Nov. 18, 2004

by Jessica Stark

In recognition of the contributions that Ohio University researchers and students are making in diabetes research, AMVETS (American Veterans) has awarded Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar John Kopchick and his students $15,000 to continue their research. The money will fund student researchers' salaries.

"It's so nice to be compensated for the time I put in, but you can't put a price on helping people," senior Megan Buchholz says. "It's amazing to know that tomorrow someone out there will be better because of what I'm doing today."

Buchholz analyzes the protein profile differences in the blood of obese and non-obese mice. She hopes that her research will identify additional factors that predispose individuals to obesity or diabetes.

She says working with AMVETS also makes her job special. Her father served in the U.S. Air Force and her grandfather was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. The AMVETS grant gives her necessary tools to continue her research into diabetes and the complications associated with the disease.

An estimated 15 percent of patients admitted to Veterans Administration medical centers have diabetes. About 70 percent of their patients are between the ages of 55 and 74, an age group in which the risk of the disease increases dramatically.

Senior Andrew Razzano also works to find a cure for diabetes and its complications. He works on two projects studying obesity and blood sugar.

"It's so awesome to be able to do this kind of research, especially as an undergraduate," Razzano says. "The kind of experience I'm gaining here is one of a kind. Not only am I getting to work in the lab, I'm getting chances to be published in medical journals."

He says the money from AMVETS has enabled and encouraged him to research diabetes and contribute to the medical field.

Kopchick, who supervises the students' work at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, says he is impressed with the contributions made to the Appalachian community where the incidence of obesity and diabetes is much greater than in other portions of the country.

"The money AMVETS has donated has been instrumental in conducting our research and helping community members. Diabetes is an especially troublesome problem in southeastern Ohio where there is a higher rate of the disease," Kopchick says. "The students are in an active learning environment where they're getting the chance to pursue an unusually high level of research and fulfill many professional aspirations."

But for Razzano, it is not just about professional experience. His grandfather was a veteran from World War II who was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and died during open heart surgery. Razzano says he is grateful for the opportunity to perform research in the area that has affected his family.

He notes that it is especially appropriate that his research is backed by his grandfather's fellow veterans.

"These are men and women who served our county and risked their lives. It's nice just to be able to give them something that could save their lives," he says.

Every minute of every day, someone new is diagnosed with diabetes. Every year, 385,000 diabetics die.

"So many people are affected by diabetes that it's important to be looking for a cure," senior Stephanie Keeton says, who works with human protein samples to determine if different diabetes treatments are working.

Keeton's work and research proposal earned her a $1,500 provost undergraduate research grant. Buchholz was also a recipient of the grant. Both students will be using the funds to help buy supplies for their studies, and they hope to use some of the money to attend an endocrinology conference next June.

Keeton says her experience in the lab has been invaluable and would not be possible without funding from AMVETS.

"I've learned so much by working in the lab that supplements classroom knowledge," she says. "But the thing I learned most is that I want to be a researcher and find treatments and cures to help people."

Jessica Stark is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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