By Wendy Sarubbi | June 7, 2016 3:55 pm

Can horses help medical students deal with stress and depression? That was one of four Focused Inquiry and Research Experience (FIRE) projects presented at the May 24 Dean’s Society gathering at Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park.

The event provided an opportunity for the select group of College of Medicine supporters to meet and network with medical students and learn more about the UCF curriculum’s unique research module.

Research is an integral part of the College of Medicine, explained Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean, who noted that because of FIRE many medical students present and publish their research before ever graduating.

“When we created the medical school,” Dr. German told Dean’s Society members, “we created a curriculum that requires all of our students to do two years of research. It was very important to me, from the very beginning, that we do that.”

“There are different kinds of doctors in the world,” she continued. “Some doctors do what they know for those patients and then send the patients on. But what we need is a doctor with a spirit of inquiry who goes beyond what they know, asks questions that seem to have no answers and try to find those answers.”

Dr. Steven Ebert, director of the FIRE program and a cardiovascular researcher at the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, noted that despite modern technology in medicine, there is still much to learn about the best way to treat patients.

“And how we learn that is largely through research — scientific scholarly research, that encourages our students to engage in evidence based medicine and not relying on somebody’s opinion or the current dogma in the field, but to question things,” he said.

During their first year of medical school, students develop a proposal and hypothesis with the help of a faculty mentor. During their second year, they conduct their research and present their findings at the annual FIRE conference in March.

In addition to the study on equestrian therapy, Dean’s Society members heard presentations on brain surgery, patient satisfaction and the role that high blood sugar plays in surgical healing. Presenters and their official research topics were:

  • Kelly Arnold and Karen Lu, Class of 2018 – “Key Drivers Influencing Overall Patient Experience in Pediatric Care.”
  • Jonathan Mahl, Class of 2018 – “Postoperative Glucose levels: A Risk Factor for Surgical Site Infections in patients Undergoing Colorectal Surgery.”
  • Jessica Walsh O’ Sullivan, Class of 2019 – “Medicine and Horsemanship: Evaluation of the Effects of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies on Medical Student’s Depression levels and Stress Relief.”
  • Luke Pearson, Class of 2018 – “Suboccipital Craniotomy for Top and Bottom Cyst Fenestration is a Viable and Safe Treatment for Midline Cerebellar Arachnoid Cysts in the Pediatric Population.”
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