By Wendy Sarubbi | March 21, 2014 8:05 pm

Developing a strong spirit of inquiry in young physicians is a key motivator at the College of Medicine, which requires every student to conduct a two-year research study. Nearly 70 first- and second-year students presented their research at the annual FIRE (Focused Inquiry Research Experience) conference March 20-21 on topics ranging from using computer games to combat obesity to the efficacy of Cesarean section surgery.

First-year students made oral presentations while second-years presented research posters. Dr. Diane Jacobs, FIRE Module director, said she expected many of the students to publish their results, present their research at professional meetings and continue their projects throughout their medical school careers.

“The students have clearly been working closely with their research mentors,” she said. “They are very knowledgeable about the subject matter; they immerse themselves in the material. It’s good to see how much they’ve benefited from the experience.”

Each student works with one or more mentors who are experts in their specific area of research. Some mentors are UCF or College of Medicine faculty, while others are part of the Central Florida medical community. All have taken time out of their busy schedules to help students become better investigators, and therefore, better physicians. “As a faculty member, it’s magnificent to see how their research has transformed and how they have transformed as students,” said Dr. David Harris, assistant professor of physiology. “How they carry themselves, how they interpret the data, they have turned into more of a colleague than a student.”

One of the most challenging parts of the FIRE Module is actually deciding a topic to study, and for some, the decision was personal. First-year student Jae Kim chose to research gout, because his brother-in-law suffers from the disease. “Watching a family member go through pain was difficult for me,” Kim said. “I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to stop this pain.” His project involved a homemade device that measures uric acid in in a patient’s system, to prevent gout attacks. The study earned Kim second place for M-1 oral presentations.

Research on top of classwork can be difficult to juggle, students said, and many found the module also turned out to be a lesson in time management. “You definitely have to make time in your schedule,” said second-year student, Jill Ireland, who studied health outcomes in foster children who age out of the system. “I had to set aside a certain amount of hours, and make sure that they were strictly for FIRE.”

Second-year student, Deeva Berera received first place for her oral presentation and was third place in the Student’s Choice poster competition. Inspired by an internship at the Centers for Disease Control and her public health major at Johns Hopkins University, Berera studied medical students’ knowledge and attitudes about vaccinations. She hopes her findings will help influence the medical school’s teaching on the importance of vaccinations for all ages of patients. Her project, mentored by Dr. Kimberly Thompson, UCF’s professor of preventive medicine and global health, found that medical students felt they needed more scientifically based information on benefits and risks of vaccinations to help their patients make smart and appropriate decisions.

FIRE winners were:

M-2 Oral Presentation Awards:

1st Place = Deeva Berera, “The Vaccine Education Project: Assessing and Addressing Medical Students Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Regarding Vaccination.” Mentor: Kimberly Thompson, Sc.D.

2nd Place = Adam Almaguer, “Comparing Clinical Outcomes: Attending Surgeons vs. Resident Surgeons in Primary Elective Cesarean Section.” Mentor: Jeffrey Huang, M.D.

3rd Place = Christin Giordano, “The Effect of a Simulated Patient-Role Activity on the Self-reported Empathy Scores of First-Year Medical Students.” Mentor: Caridad Hernandez, M.D.

M-1 Oral Presentation Awards:

1st Place = Monica Mattes, “Lymphopenia in Patients with Single Ventricle Heart Disease Who Have Undergone Fontan Operation,” Jason Connor, Ph.D., Matthew Schwartz, M.D.

2nd Place = Jae Kim, “Noninvasive Uric Acid Monitor Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy.” Mentor: Si Jung Kim, Ph.D.

3rd Place = Benjamin Eslahpazir, “Pulsatile Computational Fluid Dynamics Model of the Axial Flow Ventricular Assist Device as Pattern Predictor for Cerebral Thromboembolism.” Mentors: William deCampli, M.D., Ph.D., Alasin Kassab, Ph.D.

 M-2 Faculty Award Posters:

1st Place = Elissa Engel, “The Effect of Ranitidine Use on Bacterial Infection in Low Birth Weight Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.” Mentor:  Victoria Niklas, M.D.

2nd Place = Julia Vaizer, “Medicine and Horsemanship: Evaluation of the Effect of Equine-Assisted Learning on Medical Students’ Depression Levels and Stress Relief.” Mentor: Manette Monroe, M.D.

3rd Place = Errol Inci, “Laparoscopic Training Exercise Comparing the Most Effective Training Sequence of Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Training and Conventional Laparoscopic Training.” Mentor: Hubert Swana, M.D.

Students’ Choice Posters (as rated by M-1 students):

1st Place = Meshal Soni, “A Comparison of the pRIFLE and AKIN Criteria in Diagnosing Acute Kidney Injury in Pediatric Patients with Congenital Heart Disease After Undergoing Cardiac Surgery at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Are We Over Diagnosing Clinically Significant Cases of Acute Kidney Injury in These Patients?” Mentor: Kurt Piggott, M.D.

2nd Place = Jovana Obradovic, “Risk Factors Associated with Diagnosis of True Hyperglycemia in Pediatric Patients with a Mildly Elevated HbA1C.” Mentor: Steven Frick, M.D.

3rd Place = Deeva Berera, “The Vaccine Education Project: Assessing and Addressing Medical Students Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Regarding Vaccination.” Mentor: Kimberly Thompson, Sc.D.

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