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Medical Students Participate in GSM Research Projects Through Dr. I. Reid Collmann's Legacy Scholarship

Medical students participated in a focused research experience at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine through the I. Reid Collmann, M.D. Medical Student Education Fund. Dr. Collmann believed that hands-on exposure to research and its impact on patient care help to build a solid foundation for careers in medicine.

This summer, five medical students between their first and second years of study at the UT Health Science Center College of Medicine were supported by the program.

Under the direction of Rajiv Dhand, Chair of Medicine and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonology, Daniel Faradji participated in a study entitled, Perceived Activity and Weakness Score (PAWS): Correlation of Subjective Assessment with Measures of Respiratory Muscle Strength in Adult Patients." The PAWS scale was developed by Dr. Dhand as a 5-item Likert scale-based questionnaire to assess muscle strength and endurance. In previous studies, PAWS was shown to have a strong correlation with objective tests of muscle strength and endurance in hospitalized patients. The current study was designed to determine the correlation of PAWS with tests of respiratory muscle strength (maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressures) and peak inspiratory flow rate. The research team found that patients’ perceived weakness, when assessed via PAWS, had a strong correlation with their inhalation strength and peak inspiratory flow rate and lesser correlation with their exhalation strength. Dr. Dhand said he plans to submit an abstract to the American Thoracic Society Annual Conference in May 2022.

Christopher Forsythe also participated in a research study under the direction of Dr. Dhand entitled, "Corticosteroid Dosing in Acute Exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD): A Retrospective Cohort Analysis." Dr. Dhand identified a need for research on optimal dosing strategies for corticosteroids in patients with AECOPD. The study team previously collected data from 108 patients admitted  for AECOPD between December 2017 and May 2019. Contributing to the analysis, Christopher found no significant differences in outcomes between the cohorts on high versus low doses of corticosteroids. At the time of this observational study, dosing practices for corticosteroids were highly variable (the median dose was 100 milligrams per day ranging from 0 to 360 milligrams per day) and patients who received high doses of corticosteroids were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital. The team plans to conduct further investigations to determine optimal dosing practices. Dr. Dhand will submit a study abstract to the American Thoracic Society Annual Conference in May 2022.

Samson Lopez conducted research under the direction of Michael Karlstad, PhD, Director of Trauma & Critical Care Surgery Research. In prior studies, Dr. Karlstad found that an omega-3 fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) could reduce inflammation by decreasing levels of arachidonic acid in cell membranes. The team is now evaluating if adding a lecithin-containing excipient mixture to the current EPA formulation will improve EPA's incorporation into tissues, which, if successful could become a new treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Zara Parkinson assisted in a study related to decreasing unintended pregnancy under the guidance of Nikki Zite, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Education and Advocacy in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The aim of this retrospective study was to assess whether female adolescents (defined as patients younger than 20 years old) were more likely than adult women to desire "immediate postpartum long-acting reversible contraception" (IPP LARC) following delivery of a baby. Results showed that the former were more likely to obtain IPP LARC, and uptake was also higher based on certain additional demographics. The results of the study may be used by clinicians to advocate for better access to LARC in efforts to decrease unintended pregnancies. The study notes that future research should evaluate the underlying reasons for variation in uptake among certain ethnic and racial groups. An abstract entitled, "IPP LARC Uptake in Postpartum Adolescent Populations, 2019-2020," was submitted to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) District VII meeting.

Sydney Stewart participated in research, directed by Deidra Mountain, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery and Director of the Vascular Research Laboratory, designed to study intimal hyperplasia in vascular disease. Dr. Mountain’s team previously developed a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology that can be used as a drug delivery vehicle following vascular (i.e. stent) intervention. The current study was focused on improving direct delivery into the arterial wall. Through a series of LNP surface modifications and incorporation of a cell-penetrating peptide known as stearylated-R8, the team was able to create a more effective formulation for the delivery of genetic therapy to damaged vascular endothelium. Dr. Mountain plans to submit this work to the annual meeting of the Controlled Release Society in 2022.   

Pictured front row L-R: Christopher Forsythe, Daniel Fardji, Sydney Stewart, Samuel Lopez, and Zara Parkinson

Picutred back row L-R: Dr. Mountain, Dr. Dhand, Dr. Karlstad, and Dr. Zite

Posted September 7, 2021

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