From left to right: Dean Hauptman, Katherine Frye, Jada Laws, Reem Abdulhussein, Amelia Pi, Ezra Miller, Abigail Calderon and Dr. Mounatin
The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine completed its second Advancing Access to Careers in Medicine Scholars Program (AACMSP) this summer. The program, led by Deidra Mountain, PhD, Director of the Undergraduate Research Experience, is designed to improve students' access to careers in medicine and/or translational sciences by exposing them to research being conducted at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.
This years’ participants included six students who come from diverse backgrounds but share a common goal of pursuing careers in medicine.
As part of the program, students spent eight weeks conducting research that has the potential to positively impact detection of diseases and treatments for patients with conditions including diabetes, dementia, glioblastoma brain tumors, and peripheral arterial disease.
Amelia Pi is a native of Germantown, TN, who graduated from Houston High School. She is an upcoming Senior at UTK, majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Child and Family Studies at UTK. Prior to the program, Amelia served with Remote Area Medical and Global Brigades to help provide free health clinics to rural communities and has an interest in serving vulnerable populations. Following completion of her undergraduate degree, Amelia plans to pursue medical school and a career as a pediatric oncologist. Through the AACMSP, Amelia was mentored by Dr. Joseph Jackson, in the Oncolytic Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory. Her project implemented the use of an oncolytic Herpes Simplex Virus and how it can be engineered to combat glioblastoma.
Regarding her experience in AACMSP this summer, she said, “The AACMSP program has been extremely beneficial to me not only in laboratory experience but also in realizing the realities of being a researcher. Overall, this opportunity has made me recognize the importance of translational research in the medical field.”
Reem Abdulhussein, a native of Sevierville, TN, after her family immigrated to the United States from Iraq. She is a first-generation college student majoring in Kinesiology with a minor in Arab Studies at UTK. She acknowledges the opportunity to participate in programs like AACMSP, that are specifically designed for diverse and historically underserved populations, has helped her to navigate her college career. Following completion of her undergraduate degree, Reem plans to pursue medical school and a career as a Physician, where she intends to provide care for underserved populations. Through AACSMP, Reem was mentored by Dr. Emily Martin and Dr. Mansi Balachandran in the Amyloidosis and Cancer Theranostics Program. Her project involved developing novel CAR-Macrophages as a potential treatment for Amyloid clearance.
Of her experience in AACMSP this summer she said, “I have found the past 8 weeks to be one of the most eye-opening experiences I have had towards my career. I learned about what goes into medical research and the day-to-day work. I am grateful to have gotten to experience a different side of the medical field.”
Abigail Calderon is a native of Knoxville, TN, graduating from L&N Stem Academy. She is an upcoming Junior at UTK, majoring in Nutrition with a Basic Science concentration and a minor in Public Health at UTK. Prior to the program, Abigail has served on medical missions in Belize and Mexico, and currently works as a Nurse Technician at UTMCK to support her college education. She says these experiences have afforded her a broad perspective on disparities in care of underserved populations. Following completion of her undergraduate degree, Abigail plans to pursue medical school and a career as a Physician to fulfill her passion to care for others. Through the AACMSP, she was mentored by Dr. Deidra Mountain in the Vascular Research Laboratory. Her project involved aiding in the development of lipid nanoparticles aimed at vascular disease intervention.
Regarding her experience in AACMSP this summer, Abigail said, “The program has provided an excellent exposure to basic science research with clinical relevance. The faculty was well equipped for student involvement and allowed complete hands-on learning, something I was pleased to experience even with a shorter program. The professional development workshops with physicians emphasized the connection that could be made in a setting made to inspire careers in medicine. I would highly recommend the AAMCSP to other undergraduates wanting to pursue careers in science and health.”
Katherine Frye, a native from Kingston, TN, graduating from Roane County High School. She is an upcoming Senior at UTK, majoring in Chemical Engineering with a Biomolecular Concentration. Prior to AACSMP, Katherine has been active in volunteering with a local adoption agency to raise awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families, a cause near and dear to her heart. After completion of her undergraduate degree, she intended to pursue a career in engineering-related research, but because of her time spent volunteering and interacting with patients and families at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and shadowing at UTMCK, she has discovered her desire to pursue a career in medicine and medical research to directly impact patient care. Through the AACSMP, Katherine was mentored by Dr. Michael Karlstad in the Shock, Trauma, and Nutrition Laboratory. Her project involved evaluating the effect of carnitine on type II diabetes in a rodent model. Carnitine is a nutrient with antioxidant traits and the ability to mediate the transport and oxidation of fatty acids for subsequent energy production. By introducing carnitine into the rodents’ diet, researchers hope to reduce the accumulation of lipid metabolites which are known to delay insulin signaling.
Of her experience in AACMSP this summer, she said, “This experience has confirmed my desire to attend medical school. I have learned a lot about anatomy and physiology as well as surgical techniques. This program has further enhanced my educational and academic studies as well as allowed me the chance to learn and work alongside a principal investigator in a professional environment.”
Ezra Miller is a native from San Mateo, CA, graduating from Hilldale High School. They are a Junior at UTK, majoring in Forensic Anthropology with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Following completion of their undergraduate degree, they intend to pursue medical school and a career as a medical examiner. Of their career goals, they stated, “We desire to help families reach a fragmented understanding of what happened to their loved ones and protect both them and the victim from an unreliable, unregulated coroner system.” As a medical examiner, they hope to be politically active and work with state legislators to push for a national overhaul of the death investigation system. Through the AACSMP, Ezra was mentored by Dr. Tom Masi in the Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine. Their project involved a series of endothelial cell proliferation assays exploring the effects of used growth media from both undifferentiated and differentiated adipose-derived stem cells.
Regarding their experience in AACMSP this summer they said, “The program gave me the chance to be highly independent in a biology lab as well as make connections with professionals in my field of interest.”
Jada Laws, a native from Memphis, TN, graduating from Harding Academy of Memphis. She is an upcoming Senior at UTK, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Public Health. Before the AACSMP, Jada has been active in Global Medical Brigades, helping provide free health clinics to indigenous communities in Panama. Following completion of her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend medical school. She hopes to pursue a career as an Obstetrician to make a difference in the disparities of care among black females. Through the AACSMP, Jada was mentored by Dr. Jill Maples in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her project involved investigating how health education and physical activity interventions influence health outcomes and decision-making among patients at risk for or diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
Regarding her experience in AACMSP this summer she said, "Since I had no prior research experience coming into this program, I did not know what to expect. However, I can honestly say that I learned so much over the past two months, and thanks to Dr. Maples, my mentor, I've received so many clinical opportunities that have further driven my passion for pursuing medicine."
Posted October 18, 2022
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