A rapidly growing number of UMKC School of Medicine students are turning an eye toward the future and taking an active role in research opportunities.
That was on display at the latest Health Sciences Student Research Summit that took place on April 26 at the UMKC Student Union. Students from the School of Medicine presented a record number of research posters.
Paula Nichols, Ph.D., associate dean for research administration at the School of Medicine, said students are becoming more aware of the importance of medical research and how clinical practice and research are intertwined. It can also greatly enhance post-graduate opportunities, she said.
“These students are incredibly driven and motivated,” Nichols said. “To get into the more competitive residencies, you need to have completed a quality research project. I think students are looking at their future and saying, ‘I can do extremely well on the Step 1 and Step 2 Boards, but what’s going to help me step forward?’ Having a quality research project that they can discuss in their residency interviews will really help them.”
Students from the schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Biological Sciences, and Computing and Engineering participated in the event . The School of Medicine had the largest representation with 42 medical students presenting 46 research posters with five additional posters from outcomes researchers participating in the school’s masters programs.
Fifth-year medical student Fedra Fallahian presented a poster on the management challenges for medical complex children with cleft lip and palate. She began taking part in basic science research during her second year of school and has already given oral presentations on other projects at conferences in Las Vegas and Boston.
This was her first poster presentation on a clinical research project.
“It’s really interesting because you learn about something in the classroom and a lot of times you think this is so rare I’m not going to see this again,” she said. “Then you see the clinical correlation and the science behind it and the way the patient presents. It’s really exciting.”
She said her research mentors have been important in her growing interest in research.
“They’ve been so supportive of me and so invested in me and my projects,” Fallahian said. “It’s because of them that I like doing research. I definitely want to continue research in my residency and I’m interested in a career in academic medicine, so I’d like to continue with this even with I’m finished with my residency.”
Chizitam Ibezim, a third-year medical student, was presenting a poster that explores a growing wave of patient dependence on narcotics used as medications while recovering from fractures. He said his research has given him a good foundation for when begins his pharmacology class this summer.
“This project looks at a lot of pharmaceutical factors and I haven’t even taken pharmacology yet,” he said. “But this has allowed me to explore that and get a firm foothold into pharmaceuticals, how they’re prescribed and how medications work.”
Nichols said she was impressed with the research projects on display.
“The quality of the projects is amazing when you look at these students and see how well they can discuss the research and talk about the background, talk about the complications and discuss their findings,” she said.
Nichols said Michael Wacker, Ph.D., and Larry Dall, M.D., assistant deans for medical student research, and Agostino Molteni, M.D., Ph.D., director of student research, have been instrumental in getting more students involved in research activities.
“They’ve done an excellent job in coordinating student research and really helping students find the right research project, the right research mentor and placing them in (research) labs,” she said.