Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Chris Breedlove, Director of Marketing
Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) held its third Research Day on Friday, Jan. 7. The annual event is designed to showcase the unique research-based accomplishments of Liberty University osteopathic medical students while providing an outlet for their work to be displayed. The half-day event began at noon and concluded in the early evening. It included ten oral presentations given by a total of 14 students during the early afternoon, and 25 poster presentations on display on the second floor of Liberty University’s Center for Medical and Health Sciences to close out the day.
“Today, is the largest university-wide event of academic presentations in medical thought,” said Joseph R. Johnson, DO, FACOOG (Dist), dean and interim chair and professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
“Scripture tells us in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Dozens of informational research topics are on visual display and up for lively discussion. Thank you to our Director of Institutional Research Dr. Joey Gigliotti and the research committee with Dr. Michael Price, who directed this forum today. Their efforts have continued to increase the participation and quality of the presentations. LUCOM research has increased over the past couple of years with new faculty bringing new ideas.”
Continuing his opening remarks, Dr. Johnson mentioned that research at times can be a solo or small group endeavor. “Our Center of Research is inclusive with approximately half of each OMS classes entering into these shared experiences. To share your work with a research community like this fills a gap. You can discover synergies and potentially close connections with people that you might not necessarily know otherwise. Students also get the opportunity to talk to other researchers about their research experiences, increase their recognition and desirability to program directors in specialty fields of medicine, population health and data analytics.”
The foundation of LUCOM’s Research Day begins over the summer during the pre-clinical research elective where participants receive hands-on experience in the process and practice of biomedical research. Each student and/or small group engages in a mentored research project or scholarly activity, and Research Day provides them the opportunity to present their findings to their peers and colleagues. The research elective also exposes students to abstract and manuscript preparation, grant development, and the regulations that govern the inclusion of animal models and human subjects in research projects.
Liberty University second-year osteopathic medical student Caitlin Hodges looked forward to Research Day as it not only highlights projects that she and her colleagues have worked on, but it also helps to practice public speaking and present research that others may not be familiar with. “Practicing and strengthening our presentation skills during an event like Research Day helps for when we present at medical conferences, poster competitions, and even for residency interviews, as well as our careers should we continue to do research.”
Hodges’ project was titled “Characterization and Identification of an Enteric Leak Factor That Disrupts Motility.” Her goal was to narrow down and identify the component of serum that affects the enteric nervous system and causes ileus in multiple pathophysiological states. She found this topic interesting because, according to her, ileus is a common problem that affects so many people in different pathophysiological conditions. “The idea of identifying something that could be targeted with future drug therapies to decrease symptoms, and sometimes even death, in a large number of patients is a wonderful use of my time,” she said.
Commenting on LUCOM’s Center for Research, Hodges added, “I’m very impressed with how accommodating the faculty mentors are. The number of students who can do research, and the quality and relevance of their research is beyond what I expected. Our research mentors and everyone who works in the lab are so passionate and truly care about what they do. No idea or question is ever dismissed, and I continuously felt valued and respected as a member of the team during my time in the research lab.”
The range of research projects varied from student to student and for Tatiana Midkiff, Class of 2024, she was specifically interested in surgical adhesion formation and microvascular leak that induces perioperative ileus. She titled her work “Development of a Model of Postoperative Surgical Adhesions and Potential Pharmacological Preventions” and was mentored by Anthony J.M. Bauer, PhD, associate professor of physiology. She chose this specific area of surgical research as it relates to her preferred specialty following medical school.
“The goal of our adhesions project was to develop a clinically relevant mouse model that we could test potential drugs with, which we did find therapeutic potential in a particular synthetic oligonucleotide. The goal of our perioperative project was to discover the mechanism that causes ileus in the immediate operative period, and through our research, we found a novel mechanism involving microvascular leak,” Midkiff said. “I was particularly interested in both these topics as they are very common complications in surgery, which is the specialty I wish to go into in the future.”
Midkiff also said, “Research is becoming an absolute necessity for students wishing to enter competitive specialties at this point, especially with the recent changes in boards being switched to pass/fail. I am so thankful that there is a research facility here at LUCOM that I could work and learn in, and I know this is a priceless experience that I will carry with me the rest of my career.”
Another second-year osteopathic medical student, Glynn Reno, had a unique opportunity within her research as she was able to use state-of-the-art equipment within LUCOM’s Center for Research to build a 3D model. Her project was titled “3-Dimensional Architecture of the Intestinal Microvasculature and Its Association to the Enteric Nervous System and Innate Immune Cell Populations.” She too worked with Dr. Bauer with the objective to construct a 3D architecture of the murine intestinal microvasculature and show its structural relationship to the enteric nervous system (ENS), neutrophils, macrophages, and mast cells.
“The architecture of the intestinal microvasculature has not been clearly delineated nor has its relationship to many other cell types within the gut wall,” said Reno. “The intestinal microvasculature is essential to maintaining intestinal oxygenation, digestion, absorption, and mucosal barrier function. Many disease states result in gut ischemia, inflammation, and abnormal vascular plasticity. Given this, exacting the structure of the vasculature in the gut wall could help us then understand its physiology which, of course, would guide more targeted treatments.”
Along with Dr. Bauer, research students were mentored by Joseph Gigliotti, PhD; Mark E. Hemric, PhD; Carl R. Hoegerl, DO, MSc, MSIT, FACP; Jeffrey Jasperse, PhD; Charles R. Joseph, MD; Chansoon Lee, PhD; Lauri Ann Maitland, DO, MPH; Linda Mintle, PhD; Yingguang Liu, PhD; John R. Martin, PhD; Eric P. Miller, DO, FACS, FACOS; Shekher Mohan, PhD; Olubukola Ojuola, MD, MPH, PGDEpid; Raena M. Pettitt, DO, CHSE; and Michael S. Price, PhD. Outside collaborative support was provided by the Liberty Mountain Medical Group, Cross Biomedical in Virginia, Clemson University in South Carolina, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina, Speratum in Costa Rica, the University of Virginia, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“As a faculty member at LUCOM, mentoring medical students in research is a vital part of their training to become competent physicians. They need to be able to understand how research is done so that they can confidently evaluate the latest developments in their specialty and apply those results to patient care. It is important to recognize their hard work during Research Day, as well as provide an opportunity for them to demonstrate their understanding of the research they’ve engaged in for several months,” said Michael S. Price, PhD, professor of microbiology. “LUCOM is a young medical school; however, the faculty are excellent scientists and provide a vital platform for the training of students and advance the body of scientific knowledge. These properties of the research program supported by the Center for Research continue the tradition of historical Christian scientists seeking to understand God’s creation and elevate the reputation of Liberty University.”
Learn more about LUCOM’s Center for Research.
View images of LUCOM’s third Research Day on Facebook.