Celebrating Student Research

The 50th annual Student Research Day was held on Nov. 17. Medical Students had the opportunity to showcase their summer research work.

The John B. Graham Student Research Society held the 50th annual Student Research Day on Nov. 17. The day kicked off with the Landes Merrimon Lecture, delivered this year by Dr. Edison Liu, President and CEO of Jackson Laboratory.

Following Liu’s lecture, several students gave oral presentations detailing their research projects. Then, things moved to the UNC Medical Center lobby for the poster presentation portion of the day. Students lined the halls discussing their work with faculty, staff, and passersby.

We chatted with a few students about their projects and their research experiences.

Hills

Justin Hills spent his summer in Lilongwe, Malawi, working at UNC Project Malawi. He and the team there were working on a research project with patients with sickle cell disease. Hills was looking into the use of hydroxyurea, the drug of choice for treating sickle cell across the world. Due to resource constraints, children in Malawi receive a lower dosage than those in the developed world. The goal of the research project was to assess how children receiving this lower dose responded compared to children not receiving hydroxyurea at all. The work is ongoing and even back in Chapel Hill, Hills is working to streamline the creation of a patient database.

Button

Julia Button has always had an interest in neonatalogy. For her summer project, she conducted an assessment of the usage of hydrocortisone in infants. Button looked at a database of hundreds of NICUs to examine the efficacy of the drug since it is given often, yet not well tested due to constraints on testing in infants. “I think the benefits of the drug need to be highlighted but we also don’t know the lingering effect of the drug, so that’s something that needs to be studied,” Button said.

Hamad

Judy Hamad worked to examine the efficacy of an injectable drug often used for other skin conditions to see if it is also an effective treatment for some skin cancers. For some patients, using this drug may reduce the need for surgeries to treat their skin cancer. “There has been some off label usage of this drug and so we wanted to see how well it worked. We found some really promising results suggesting that this could be effective for treating skin cancer in some patients,” Hamad said.

Byrd

Byrd Nichols was assessing the prescription of opioid painkillers for kids aged 1 – 15, finding a wide discrepancy in the amount of drugs prescribed and then the amount of drugs taken. She also looked into the usage of acetaminophen in pain control finding a high level of effectiveness and many fewer side effects.

Davies

Erik Davies worked with Dr. Ari Isaacson in vascular interventional radiology to conduct a cost analysis of a new procedure to treat osteoarthritis through embolization. The treatment is not yet approved in the United States, but Davies worked to understand the costs and benefits of the procedure in the event that it does become available in the US. “Yes, this procedure is more costly than many of the drugs currently used, but a lower rate of complication can reduce costs for patients in the long run.”

Several students were recognized with awards for their projects. Award winners:

Pillsbury Awards

Poster Presentations:

Basic Science: Kelly Olsen

Clinical Science: Ainsley Bloomer and Tyler Glass

Public Health: Juliana Stone

Oral Presentations:

Basic Science: Rashmi Kumar

Clinical Science: Danielle Jameison

Public Health: Ben Kaplan

Kuno Award for Public Health Research: Inbar Fried

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