FIRE Research Conference Returns In-Person, Highlighting Population Health

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As a Division I water polo athlete, Yasmine Ghattas spent much of her time coaching children with developmental disabilities in basketball and softball. Now a sophomore medical student at UCF, Ghattas has developed a passion for sports medicine and studies the impact of moderate exercise in people with intellectual disabilities.

She was one of many medical students who presented their research at the 13and Focused Inquiry and Research Experience (FIRE) annual conference on February 18, which featured medical student research. The conference is the culmination of a two-year research module that students must complete to advance scientific knowledge.

Students made oral and poster presentations on a range of health-related research topics.

Mentored by Cassidy Foley, pediatric sports medicine physician at Nemours Children’s Health, Ghattas analyzed Special Olympics data for a correlation between moderate exercise frequency and fitness parameters, such as aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility. His results showed that subjects who exercised more frequently performed better on tasks such as getting up from a seated position compared to those who exercised less.

“It was quite an exciting project to do,” says Ghattas, “and I really hope it helps establish exercise guidelines for this community. This patient population has a very different health profile and so we need to create guidelines with this in mind so as not to put them at risk.

Other research topics included the mechanisms of ankle injuries in NBA athletes, autoinflammatory diseases in pregnant women, and small vessel disease after brain injury. Like Ghattas, a significant number of students have focused on population health topics, such as the social effects of COVID-19 isolation, racial disparities in HIV outcomes, and improving the medical school curriculum to include more instruction on disability inclusion.

Sophomore Dylan Shaw examined the correlation between underage opioid abuse and crimes. He won first place for his oral presentation for the Faculty and Student Choice Awards. Using data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Shaw’s study found that as the number of youth crimes tried increased, so did the likelihood of opioid abuse.

Second-year medical student Dylan Shaw won first place for his oral presentation.

“The whole FIRE module was a great experience,” says Shaw. “We had good support throughout our projects and it was great to be able to present our research and have faculty support here at the College of Medicine.”

Steven Ebert, associate professor and director of the FIRE module, said he was impressed with the diversity of student projects, adding that he was delighted to be able to return to an in-person event this year after going virtual last year due to restrictions. COVID-19.

“I thought it was really fantastic,” says Ebert. “In particular, I was pleased to see a lot of topics this year focused on population health, underrepresented populations, and socio-economic impacts. Our students have worked with some fantastic mentors, looking at these topics from different angles, showing that it’s not just about biology, but also about the environment and how these things work together to impact health .

The conference included a plenary lecture by Sten Vermund, a pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist focused on diseases in low- and middle-income countries. He shared his experiences of setting up screening and treatment programs for cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS around the world.

Vermund says conducting scientific research in medical school will help UCF graduates become better doctors.

“Research exposure is a very good thing,” he says. “Even if someone becomes a clinician, the rigor of doing their own research in medical school helps them to critically read the medical literature with interpretation, data, data collection and analysis. And I think that makes them more critical observers of the data that they will be looking at throughout their working lives. In medicine, more than any profession you would like to think about, you need to have continuous learning and continuous knowledge and discovery.

Students competed for top prizes in various categories judged by a panel of faculty members and other students. For the first time in the competition’s history, the same students won the top three sports in oral presentations for faculty and peer choice.

The winners are:

Faculty Choice – Oral Presentations

First place: Dylan Shaw– Tried Crimes and Opioid Abuse in the Past 30 Days: A Statewide Sample of Children Engaged in Justice
Mentor: Micah Johnson, USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

Second place: Pierce Ciccone– Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (Motor) Inhibition with Rapamycin May Improve Cardiac Dysfunction in Mouse Model of HIV
Mentor: Manish Gupta, UCF Burnett School of Biomedical SciencesThird Place

Third place: Samuel Mikhail – Carotid artery flow by point-of-care ultrasound to assess volume status in pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department with a clinical problem of dehydration
Mentor: Amit Patel, Nemours Children’s Hospital

Choice of peers – Oral presentations

First place: Dylan Shaw— Tried Crimes and Opioid Abuse in the Past 30 Days: A Statewide Sample of Children Engaged in Justice
Mentor: Micah Johnson, USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

Second place: Pierce Cicone — Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (Motor) Inhibition with Rapamycin May Improve Cardiac Dysfunction in Mouse Model of HIV
Mentor: Manish Gupta, UCF Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Third place: Samuel Mikhail — Carotid artery flow by point-of-care ultrasound to assess volume status in pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department with a clinical problem of dehydration
Mentor: Amit Patel, Nemours Children’s Hospital

Faculty Choice – Poster

First place: Kristen Ibanez— Examining Mechanisms Underlying Pain and Tenderness in Painful Diabetic Neuropathy Through Quantitative Sensory Testing
Mentor: Dr. Daniel E Harper, Emory University School of Medicine

Second place: Yamilet González — Does co-locating HIV and primary care services in a large urban private practice improve HIV and primary care outcomes?
mentors: Charlotte-Paige Rolle and Edwin DeJesus, Orlando Immunology Center

Third place: Derek Zhang— Florida Primary Payer and Lung Cancer Outcome Survey
Mentor: Saleh Rahman, UCF Medical School

Choice of Peers – Poster

First place: Ezat Al-Said – Project Dextra: A new compact wrist prosthesis with a wide range of motion for activities of daily living (ADL)Mentor: Dr. Hansen Mansy, UCF College of Engineering

Second place: Rachel Pan– Application of 3D bioprinting technology in articular joint regeneration: a systematic review of the literature
mentors: Rajendra Sawh-Martinez, Nemours Children’s Hospital; Thomas Kean, UCF Medical School

Third place: Lauren Aronson – Real-time mixed reality and preoperative virtual surgical planning methods for pediatric reconstructive surgery of the cranial vault
Mentor: Rajendra Sawh-Martinez, Nemours Children’s Hospital

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