The University of Florida College of Medicine recently hosted its annual Celebration of Research poster session, and for the first time, combined faculty and student research poster presentations.
Students and faculty presented more than 460 research posters during the event Feb. 9 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Medical students, most of whom are part of the Medical Student Research Program, presented approximately 90 posters.
The Medical Student Research Program provides a 10-week individual research experience for students between their first and second years of medical school at UF. Students work with faculty from the Health Science Center and present their results in a poster at the end of their second year at the Medical Student Research Day. This year, that session was rolled into the Celebration of Research poster session.
“We wanted to encourage and increase the visibility of the medical student research,” said Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Medical Student Research Program. “Our medical students need to be able to understand how excellent research is done and need to be able to learn how to read scientific and clinical literature to remain lifelong learners. A critical part of that is actually having done it once.”
Three students, Lauren Smajdor, Kyle Jones and Lauren Donnangelo, earned second, third and fourth places awards, respectively, from the Lawrence M. Goodman Trust. The students’ top award, from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, was given to Rachel Naramore for her poster “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Sexually Trafficked Adolescents.” Her faculty mentor was Nancy Hardt, M.D., a pathologist and professor in the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine.
“Rachel’s project was unusual in that it is the largest known data set on this subject, and she spent part of the 10 weeks actually learning new ways to do statistical analysis so she could answer her research questions,” Hardt said. “I think that’s why she won — that she completed all that work in 10 weeks.”
Naramore’s study is now being considered for publication.
This year’s poster presentation reflects the momentum UF is gaining in funding through the National Institutes of Health. The UF College of Medicine increased its NIH funding for the fifth consecutive year in 2014, at a time when garnering such research funding has been challenging for institutes across the United States. In 2009, the college’s funding totaled $61.6 million. Since then, the college has added $26.3 million more research dollars, totaling an NIH budget of $88 million. This increase in funding occurred at the same time the NIH’s budget flatlined.
The quality of research that drew this level of attention from the NIH showed in the poster session at the O’Connell Center. A grid of research posters filled the floor of the arena. Researchers and students walked through aisles created by the research posters, tightly packed with more researchers and students discussing the questions they explored for these projects.
“Our celebration focused on research, but one could not help but also notice the integration of all our missions, and the multiple intersections of research, education, and patient care,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine.
Awards for faculty research will be announced in April.
The Celebration of Research week continued with talks by Stephanie Karst, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, who unpacked how the norovirus interacts with the body and Clayton Mathews, Ph.D., the Sebastian Family professor for diabetes research in the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine, who spoke about ways to better understand Type 1 diabetes. The week ended with a keynote address from Ennio A. Chiocca, M.D., Ph.D., about oncolytic viruses as a therapy for brain tumors. Chiocca is chair of the department of neurosurgery and co-director of the Institute for Neurosciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.