New event introduces third-year students to medical research

Faculty members judged the student teams’ research posters.

More than 100 third-year medical students presented research findings Dec. 5 at the UMKC School of Medicine as part of their coursework in medical neuroscience.

Students, in teams of four, used data from the Cerner HealthFacts database to try to answer a unique question. The diseases and conditions examined included Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, obsessive-compulsive disorder, epilepsy and diabetes. After analyzing the data and drawing conclusions, each team made a poster displaying its question and hypothesis, telling how the team members went about testing their hypothesis, explaining their findings, and identifying questions for further study.

The idea behind the exercise was to give students an early research experience, and for many it was their first medical research.

By all accounts, the assignment was a success. Several students said that before the exercise they were worried about how difficult it would be to do research, but now they looked forward to being able to do more.

Shafaa Mansoor, whose team studied possible seasonal effects on strokes, said she is interested in community health and now sees research as a way to further that interest, see the real effects of medical conditions and test possible treatments.

Her teammates Rebecca Kurian and Tom Matthews agreed that the project was a good, hands-on way to learn how to do research.

“The process was as important as the results,” Matthews said. “Learning how to do this and present our findings was valuable.”

More than 40 faculty members collaborated to make the project a reality, including several who judged the presentations. Each team also had a faculty mentor and a supporting biostatistician from the Department of Biomedical & Health Informatics, Children’s Mercy Hospital or the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

One of the judges, Maria Cole, M.Ed.L., Ph.D., an associate professor in biomedical sciences, very much liked what she saw.

“I had these students in class in January and it’s something to see how far they have come since then,” she said. “Their ability to analyze data and explain their findings, and to link their results to what they learned in class, is impressive.”

Jennifer Bickel (left), M.D. ’01, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the headache section at Children’s Mercy Hospital; was one of three faculty members who devised the exercise. She circulated among the student research teams to get their thoughts on how the exercise went.

The exercise was devised by Jennifer Bickel, M.D. ’01, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the headache section at Children’s Mercy Hospital; Julie Banderas, Pharm.D., BCPS, professor and interim chair of the Department of Biomedical & Health Informatics, professor and associate dean for graduate studies; and Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and associate dean for research.

“There was no model for this, so we’re learning as we go,” said Bickel, who talked with the teams about their experiences. “We will make improvements and hope this is something we can eventually share with other programs. It’s exciting to be doing something completely new.”

The teams were judged for poster content, clarity, appearance and organization; their oral presentations; and demonstration of critical thinking.

The top three teams were announced Dec. 6:

First place, Jonathan Jalali, Chidera Okafor, Jacob Perera and Amudha Porchezhian, “Is Patient Sex Linked to Pharmacologic Agents that Induce Acute Dystonic Reaction?”

Second place, Caleb Spencer, Grace Arias, Debolina Kanjilal and Kyla Mahone, “Correlation Between Elevation in Inflammatory Markers of ESR and CRP in Patients Diagnosed with OCD and OCPD and Age.”

Third place, Saniya Ablatt, Vijaya Dasari, Gauri Kaushal and Andrea Pelate; “Stroke Incidence at a Young Age in Rural vs. Urban Populations.”