By Wendy Sarubbi | November 4, 2013 4:51 pm

Avianne Bunnell, a UCF College of Medicine senior, took first place in a national medical student poster competition for her research into better detections for abdominal compartment syndrome, a condition where increased pressure in the abdomen causes reduced blood flow, organ failure and death.

Avianne, who will graduate this spring, hopes to enter residency training as a vascular surgeon. “I believe vascular surgery is at the forefront of innovation and technology,” she said. “Because each patient is so unique, each case requires a sense of creativity.”

She won the 7th Annual Starr Poster Contest for Medical Students and Residents, which is named for Dr. Nina Starr Braunwald, a pioneer in the field of heart surgery who led the surgical team that was the first to implant a prosthetic heart valve, which she also designed. Dr. Braunwald was one of the first women to train as a general surgeon at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, from 1952-1955. The award named in her honor is designed to recognize female students interested in surgery, surgical residents, and faculty members of various institutions. Avianne received the first place award at the Association of Women Surgeons meeting during the 100th annual American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in Washington D.C after presenting her research findings. The award “recognizes Avianne Bunnell as an outstanding medical student who has demonstrated excellence in innovative research.”

“I was so surprised and honored to be selected as the winner of the research contest,” she said. “It was a privilege for me to even be nominated as a finalist among so many ambitious and talented students and residents.”

Avianne’s presentation was an extension of her Focused Inquiry and Research Experience (FIRE) module, a two-year research project required of all UCF College of Medicine students. Her FIRE mentor was Dr. Michael Cheatham, director of the Surgical Intensive Care Units at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Her study focused on evaluating one of the methods used to measure increasing pressure within the abdomen, which can be a risk factor for developing abdominal compartment syndrome. Some practitioners use airway pressures to estimate the pressure within the abdomen rather than purchasing and using costly electronic pressure measuring devices. Her study found that such airway measurements are not as accurate as the current gold standard for abdominal pressure measurement — pressures taken from the bladder.

Before coming to medical school, Avianne studied physiology at the University of Arizona. “That was where I first became interested in research that allowed me to explore the body’s physiology while discovering clinically applicable data. I have kept that interest in becoming a physician scientist throughout medical school, and given the opportunities I received here at UCF I have been able to develop those interests through several different research projects,” she said.

Dr. Marcy Verduin, the College of Medicine’s associate dean for students, said “Avi’s passion for medicine, research, and scholarship is palpable, and I am continually impressed by her ability to succeed at a very high level.  I am eager to see what the future holds for her.”

Avianne said she enrolled at the UCF College of Medicine because of its forward-thinking approach to training physicians for the 21st century. “Dean German made it clear that attending UCF would mean helping to pioneer a new and improved medical training experience and I have been honored to serve and learn in the process,” she said. “I have come to understand our motto, and am evidence that ‘UCF Stands for Opportunity.’”

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