Monday, January 13, 2020
Center for Research continues to advance LUCOM’s mission
Chris Breedlove, Director of Marketing
Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) held its first Research Day on Friday, Jan. 10. This new annual event allowed Liberty osteopathic medical students to showcase their unique research projects through oral and poster presentations and highlighted the COM’s commitment to quality research. Throughout the year, LUCOM research faculty mentored and worked collaboratively with student-doctors on a variety of scholarly projects.
“Our first Research Day is a culmination of efforts to advance medical research and promote interest in scholarly activity among our students and faculty that began with the conception of the school. It is yet another step among many towards fulfilling a goal in our strategic plan,” said Peter Bell, DO, dean of LUCOM.
Research Day was a celebration of months of biomedical, clinical, and medical education research. The event included nine oral presentations featuring twelve Liberty osteopathic medical students and one undergraduate student as speakers as well as 19 research posters on display on the second floor of Liberty’s Center for Medical and Health Sciences. “It is significant that each of these student studies reflect our vision to educate medical students in a Christian environment,” added Andrew J. Behnke, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine. “Research is a cornerstone of any serious education at a medical school and this shows how we are growing to include a holistic and complete medical education.”
For second-year student-doctor Macie Bingham, her work explored the many factors that can influence academic success in medical school. “We surveyed students to explore how factors such as sleep, doubt, ability to manage emotions, and many more affect academic success during their first year of medical school,” she said. “Extracurricular research is important for medical students because, for many, it will likely be a large part of their future pursuit of medicine…as future physicians we should be playing an active role both in finding gaps and problems in our current understanding and in seeking out answers and solutions to those problems.”
Joseph Brewer, PhD, associate dean for research, said student research involvement is valuable as it provides additional opportunities to become more effective physicians. “Practically, research and all scholarly pursuits, allow students to distinguish themselves, making them more competitive for residency placement. Research Day is very important to celebrate that type of initiative and commitment.”
The Center for Research has seen significant growth since opening in 2015. During that summer, a new pre-clinical research elective was offered for the first time with seven students participating. This past summer, 2019, 46 students participated. Additionally, for LUCOM’s first Research Day, 53 student-doctors were authors on a total of 24 abstracts.
“Based on our current model, I believe we [LUCOM] are unique in that we are able to provide terrific research opportunities without compromising our dedication to student education,” added Joseph C. Gigliotti, PhD, assistant professor of physiology. “It is uncommon for medical students to be able to work alongside the faculty who also teach them in lectures. I believe these interactions are extremely important for both the faculty and students and will only continue to enrich the quality of education and training we provide at LUCOM.”
Beenish Faraz, second-year student-doctor, took a deeper look at the role of microbiota in the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders. Currently, she is waiting on further analysis of key samples in her study. She is hoping to build upon previous work by other laboratories indicating that individuals with autism have a distinct microbiome profile compared to their normal counterparts. “Research is an important component of being a physician because it gives us an evidence-based approach to patient care. Keeping up with research will help us in treating patients with the most up to date therapeutics and the reasoning behind them,” she said. “The aim of my project is to shed light on potential biomarkers which can serve as screening tools for Autism.”
The presentation of Nicholas Hale, Nicolas Du Fayet De La Tour, and David Baik, second-year student-doctors, centered on the effects of trauma on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. “We worked on developing novel imaging modalities to allow us to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze our work on the GI tract, specifically with regards to trauma. We successfully developed these techniques which have been a great help in our trauma resuscitation research, which is also showing promising results. We used a variety of instruments including light microscopes, confocal microscopes, fluorescent plate readers and centrifuges,” said Du Fayet De La Tour.
“Research is all about finding a question, problem, or simply a gap in knowledge and using the scientific method to seek out the truth. God created us to be curious and critical thinkers and I believe He rejoices every time we discover something new about His creation. You don’t have to have a PhD to do research – we all have questions that need to be answered. We were not made to be complacent, but to spend our lives being students of the Most High,” added Bingham.
The LUCOM Center for Research, located on the first floor of Liberty’s Center for Medical and Health Sciences, includes one large ‘core’ lab (for common and large equipment) surrounded by six smaller individual labs, and separate rooms for specialty instruments including a confocal microscope, nanoparticle analysis equipment, advanced electrophysiology equipment, and equipment for quantitative analysis of gene expression. According to Dr. Brewer, the research program at LUCOM exists to promote and enhance the overall mission of the COM, rather than to become a separate entity of scientific pursuit.
“Our Center for Research is much more than lab space and expensive equipment, more importantly it is people, along with their gifts and talents, ideas and expertise —that is firmly committed to excellence in scientific investigation within an authentic Christian environment. If we are faithful to this call and challenge, I believe God has much for us to do and that He will bless the work. It is an honor and a humbling opportunity to be a part of this special work that involves Liberty osteopathic medical students,” said Dr. Brewer.
As part of the ongoing work of LUCOM’s research program, the Biomedical Frontiers Seminar Series is held monthly to bring in leading and innovative researchers from across the country. Each invited speaker offers presentations on many diverse forms of research including, but not limited to, molecular and cellular biology, physiology, microbiology and infectious diseases, healthcare approach and policies. On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at noon, LUCOM will welcome Uta Erdbrügger, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Virginia Health System. Her presentation is entitled Extracellular Vesicles in Hypertension – Hidden Messengers.
See more images from LUCOM Research Day 2020 at Facebook.com/LibertyMedicine.