February 28, 2020—For Taylor Merritt, the process of conducting research with her mentor, Lindsay Thompson, M.D., a UF professor of pediatrics and health outcomes and biomedical informatics, was just as rewarding as being honored for her work.
The second-year medical student took home top honors during the 2020 Celebration of Medical Student Research and Award Recognition Ceremony, held Feb. 26 in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building. The ceremony recognized medical and physician assistant students whose research was presented the previous evening during the 2020 Research Poster Session in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The posters were ranked by a group of Health Science Center faculty, and each winner received a cash prize.
Merritt’s poster, “Receipt of recommended vaccines in pregnancy varies by insurance type,” was awarded the Alpha Omega Alpha Award in the amount of $1,000. Merritt and Thompson gathered data to determine the relationship between a pregnant woman’s insurance type and her probability of receiving all the recommended vaccinations before she gives birth.
Her research discovered that women with Florida Medicaid frequently did not receive the flu or Tdap vaccines, as the costs were not covered through Medicaid. Instead, they were given the vaccines after giving birth at UF Health Shands Hospital. Merritt says these findings suggest that out-of-pocket costs, not an unwillingness, are preventing all pregnant women from getting these important vaccines.
“Preventive health care is very important to me,” said Merritt, who aims to enter a pediatrics residency after she completes medical school. “Talking to patients about how to prevent diseases from happening in the first place and working to reduce health disparities to make sure all my patients have the same access to health care are things I feel very passionate about.”
Before announcing each of the students receiving awards, Joseph Fantone, M.D., senior associate dean for educational affairs for the UF College of Medicine, called the 2020 UF College of Medicine Research Poster Session one of the highlights of his year. He said of the 550 posters displayed at the O’Connell Center, 150 were produced by medical and P.A. students.
“This is an event where you can really appreciate the community of scholars at our institution whose work spans the spectrum of medical research,” Fantone said. “It’s spectacular to see the energy surrounding this research.”
UF College of Medicine interim dean Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., provided the ceremony’s closing remarks, commenting on the importance of mentorship and personal passion when it comes to conducting medical research.
“Walking around the poster session and listening to people talk about their science, I could hear their passion. That passion is so important to the substance of what we do here every day. That tells me we are a vibrant organization making an impact,” said Tyndall. “Without this kind of faculty mentorship, we wouldn’t be able to drive this kind of inquiry and action.”