Fourth-year medical students present research at inaugural showcase

The Senior Research Showcase helps fourth-year medical students gain experience presenting their research
December 15, 2021

In addition to their classwork and clinical duties, many students at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine engage in scholarly research under the guidance of faculty mentors.

The inaugural Senior Research Showcase, hosted by the Office of Medical Student Research Education, allowed members of the Texas A&M College of Medicine Class of 2022 to virtually present their research to each other and to a group of judges. This new event adds to the educational footprint in scholarly research for medical students available at the college and was possible thanks to the work of Gloria Conover, PhD, director of medical student research, and her team, Selina Nigli, PhD, program coordinator, and two undergraduate student workers.

“The conference provided us fourth-years one last chance to showcase our research experiences before graduation,” said Tiffany Holland, Class of 2022 research officer, who helped organize the event. “Many research presentation opportunities were canceled because of the pandemic. This ensured us a final research presentation opportunity despite the unpredictable nature of this past year.”

Diane Chico, PhD, instructional professor and department head of the Department of Medical Education gave an inspirational opening remark that highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration for medical research that impacts patient care. Ruby Shah, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical medicine and a clinician at Houston Methodist, gave the keynote address.

“I was honored to be asked to give the keynote at the Senior Research Showcase, as I get to know many of our students during their clerkship years and know how hard they work,” Shah said. “I also was eager to share with them that research can take many forms—quality and process improvement and education research, and also primary care. Research can be done by anyone, and I hope they are motivated to think outside the box to keep research as a part of their careers in the future.”

Each student presented their work live on the virtual platform and were evaluated by expert judges. With a student-to-judge ratio of almost 1-to-1, the event became a collaborative opportunity for them as well.

“It was a wonderful experience to judge Senior Research Showcase,” said Arpitha Chiruvolu, MD, FAAP, a neonatologist at Baylor Scott & White and clinical associate professor at Texas A&M. “It was a great event for medical students to present the research and celebrate their scholarship. It was great to interact and communicate with other faculty.”

Ten students received awards for their presentations, each with research in a different medical specialty: Ather Adnan for radiology, Abigail Bourland for pediatrics, Sneha Chebrolu for Infectious Disease, Helen Chen for dermatology, Keirsyn Criss for internal medicine, Brandon Dickey for surgery, Jordan Garcia for medical education, Kayla Hudson for urology, Yongchang (Ryan) Jang for neurology and Kirby Taylor for ophthalmology.

“I enjoyed presenting my case report at the Senior Research Showcase,” Dickey said. “The day was extremely efficient, and everyone was able to present their most recent research to professionals at the College of Medicine. The virtual presentation upload was an excellent way for faculty to review the presentation before and come prepared with questions. The virtual format was a great way to connect everyone from so many different campuses. I hope that this showcase continues for future classes because it is an excellent opportunity!”

That sentiment was repeated by many of the participants. “I had a wonderful time participating in the Senior Research Showcase,” Bourland said. “It was a great opportunity to present my research in front of peers and faculty to receive constructive feedback. I am grateful for the SRS because I walked away with more confidence in presenting and critical thinking.”

The students each have a faculty mentor to guide their research, and the mentors also spoke highly of the experience. “The collaboration between clinicians at Houston Methodist Hospital and the medical students from Texas A&M has created opportunities for productive collaboration amongst bright and young minds and more experienced clinicians,” said Rose Khavari, MD, associate professor of urology at the Institute for Academic Medicine, Urology Residency Program director, and director of research at the Center for Restorative Pelvic Medicine. “Our experience in urology has been that the Texas A&M medical students are expertly enthusiastic and with dedication to academics. They are eager to learn and participate in research, but also show perseverance to carry the project to the end.”

Several of the students mentioned that they found the research directly beneficial to their future plans. “Applying to a competitive field of medicine like otolaryngology for residency almost always requires research experience and publication,” Jang said. “Learning from Dr. Khavari and conducting research with her has been an invaluable experience for me. Her mentorship over various projects has helped me understand the relevance of research as an aspiring surgeon and prepare for a competitive surgical specialty. I am truly grateful for Dr. Khavari’s leadership that ensures me a safe and effective learning environment. Such a learning environment has led to a fuller and more fruitful outcome than I had expected. Lastly, working with Dr. Khavari, a respected leader in urology, has inspired me to become a more impactful physician like her in the future.”

“I enjoy mentoring medical students on research projects,” said Sarah Stringfield, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center. “I think it is important for all physicians to be involved in research at some point. Even if research is not part of their future career, understanding what goes into the data collection, analysis, and writing helps us critically analyze published work and apply it to our practices. I think the research showcase is a great opportunity to allow the students to share their findings with others and recognize them for the hard work they put into these projects.”

“Mentors felt so proud, and so many shared with me the joy they felt at seeing their students present,” said Conover, who is also an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education. “Having committed mentors makes a huge difference in the learning and research journeys of our medical students. We see the students improve their research and communication skills, and that is very exciting for all of us.”

Two of the founding Medical Scholar Research Pathway Program students received awards at the event. “It is a wonderful feeling to see our students’ research journeys as they develop their research,” Conover added.

— Christina Sumners

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