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Texas A&M medical students and their research mentors collaborate at colloquium

Medical Research Colloquium gives a virtual platform for students to present their scholarly research findings to peers and judges from geographically dispersed campuses

For a third year in a row, the Texas A&M School of Medicine’s Office of Medical Student Research Education hosted its Medical Research Colloquium for Texas A&M medical students.

The colloquium included opening remarks from Diane Chico, PhD, department head of Medical Education and a keynote address by Xanthi Couroucli, MD, FAAP, along with synchronous parallel poster sessions and oral presentations.

“As I watched all the intriguing presentations of these keen medical students, I could see that they have a special gift towards discovery,” said Couroucli, who is an associate professor in pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and affiliated with Texas Children’s Hospital. “Also, their amazing mentors empowered them to see the future of research and helped them believe that it can be obtained!”

The event was made possible thanks to the leadership of Gloria M. Conover, PhD, instructional assistant professor and director of medical student research, and her team: Selina Nigli, PhD, program coordinator; Vicki Pilsner, program manager; Edward Mendoza, student assistant; and Mikayla Monk, program aide and key organizer of the colloquium. They expressed their gratitude to the faculty judges who gave live feedback to students as they presented their research projects.

“As part of the developing committee for three colloquiums, I was greatly honored to serve the students of Texas A&M School of Medicine who participated in this innovative highly inclusive research venue,” Monk said. “The excitement students display for their research and the respect they have for the opportunity is empowering for the prospect of the future physician investigators to come.”

The event allows medical students in all four years of training the opportunity to share their scholarly research projects spanning broad disciplines with faculty and peers. In total, 46 medical students from all five campuses gave poster presentations, and 24 faculty judges gave out six awards.

Dixita Viswanath, MD/PhD student, tied for first place for her poster: Engineered implantable vaccine platform for antigen-specific immunomodulation. “As an MD/PhD student, I feel honored to participate in both clinical and translational medicine research,” she said. “I greatly appreciate all that Texas A&M and Houston Methodist Research Institute have done to develop me as a physician-scientist. I hope to one day be in a position to inspire generations of women and other underrepresented minorities in science.”

Elaine Avsham, medical student in the Class of 2025, tied for first place for her poster: HPV cancer free: modifications to an mHealth intervention to increase user engagement and enhance parent education about the HPV vaccine. “Participating  in the Medical Research Colloquium 2022 was an exciting and fun way to showcase my HPV research,” she said. “I am honored to receive this award and be able to utilize the colloquium as an avenue to provide education and insight. Overall, this was a great experience seeing my fellow classmates present all their hard work, and I can’t wait to do it again next year!”

Nicole DeSisto, Medical Scholar Researcher in the class of Class 2023, tied for second place for her poster: Incidence and pattern of orbital trauma associated with domestic violence. “I am honored to receive the second-place prize for my research work investigating the incidence and pattern of domestic violence-related orbital trauma,” she said. “I believe this topic to be extremely important to our society and plan to continue to expand upon surveillance protocols for those experiencing domestic violence in our community.”

Kaci Orr, Medical Scholar Explorer in the Class 2024, tied for second place for her poster: Variability in Antibiotic Prescription at Discharge for pediatric community acquired pneumonia in the emergency department setting. “It was such an impactful and formative experience,” she said. “I cannot emphasize enough how much I learned and grew as a researcher by presenting my poster to a panel of judges, fielding their questions, and receiving feedback regarding my poster and project.”

Richard Feng, medical student in the Class of 2024, also tied for second place for his poster: Magnetic resonance finding following surgery for ischiofemoral impingement. “Research serves as both a learning experience and a chance to explore unanswered questions in medicine,” he said. “For me, it has also been an opportunity to learn more about the medical subspecialty I am most interested in.”

Racheal Wong, Medical Scholar Researcher in the Class of 2024, also tied for second place for her poster: A clinical review of the variable expressivity of desmin mutation in familial restrictive cardiomyopathy patients. “I am so honored to receive this award for my poster particularly after seeing how amazing everyone’s projects were there. This colloquium has been an incredible experience that has taught me so much, not only from working on my own poster and presentation, but also from observing my peers present as well. It has allowed me to further develop my presentation skills and receive constructive feedback in a space filled with supportive faculty and peers.”

A new session this year was especially for the first-year medical student inaugural cohort of MSRPP Fellows. This year-long new internship is part of the Medical Scholar Research Pathway Program (MSRPP). The MSRPP Fellows start with an in-person two-month summer experience and continue their research during their second year of medical school. Each of the seven MSRPP Fellows had the opportunity to meet and explain, in a small group, why they became involved in research and how they wished to integrate scholarship and research as their lifelong pursuit in their clinical practice. Xanthi Couroucli and Arpitha Chirivolu, MD, an MSRPP mentor from the Dallas campus and member of the Medical Research Advisory Committee, also shared their perspectives. Chirivolu explained how much research brought to her clinical practice.

“The Medical Research Colloquium is one of my favorite internal research conferences for our learners every spring because it nicely promotes research collaboration in all of our medical student attendees and their mentors, truly embracing our core educational mission for research and scholarship,” Conover said. “It is fun to watch live how research relationships reinforce medical student research curiosity by being inspired by their mentor’s inquisitive mind.”

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