By Wendy Sarubbi | July 17, 2015 11:41 am

Four UCF medical students have received Health Sciences Fellowship Awards from the American Heart Association for their original research on cardiac disease.

Their projects are part of the FIRE (Focused Inquiry and Research Experience) module, which requires all UCF M.D. students to do two years of scientific research to develop their spirit of inquiry. Class of 2018 students Tiffany Chan (far left), Jeffrey Fleming (second from left), Trevor Getz (second from right) and Priya Patel (far right) were selected from the 120 students in their class to receive the $4,500 stipend to support their research.

The awards are made possible through a training grant from the Greater Southeast Chapter of the American Heart Association, which is led by College of Medicine Associate Dean of Research Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy. Dr. Parthasarathy is the co-discoverer of the major cardiovascular concept, that oxidized LDL cholesterol blocks arterial vessels in the heart.

The students’ research involves a variety of topics, from heart problems associated with drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to the emotional intelligence of children with congenital heart disease. As part of the FIRE module, students are urged to select a topic about which they are passionate. Because every UCF medical student conducts scientific research, the college hopes to improve their understanding as physicians of the importance and role of research in patient care.

Each student has a FIRE mentor, a College of Medicine core faculty member or other volunteers including community physicians and other scientific experts at UCF and beyond. Dr. Steven Ebert, a cardiac disease researcher who directs the FIRE module, noted the importance of the mentors in helping students design and conduct successful studies. “We want to extend a special thank you to each of these student’s FIRE research mentors for their generous donation of time and support for these projects and the student’s overall education,” he said.

The FIRE module was the idea of College of Medicine founding Dean Dr. Deborah German, who hoped it would “keep alive” the dreams that brought students to the new UCF medical school. She said she was delighted with the awards, telling the award recipients, “This is what we hope all students will accomplish. You are leading the way for others.”

Here is a summary of the winning research projects:

  • “Standardized Assessments of Emotional Intelligence in Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease Patients,” Tiffany Chan. Research Mentor: Dr. William DeCampli, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, Orlando Health, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children Heart Center at Arnold Palmer, and Professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine.

“There is a documented, increased prevalence of neurodevelopmental delay in Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) children and psychosocial challenges in CHD adults, particularly in more severe cases. Low Emotional Intelligence (EI) have been associated with the same psychosocial challenges CHD adults face, like anxiety, depression and decreased academic or work achievements. High EI has been associated with increased leadership skills and workplace success, and more importantly, EI scores can increase with training. This cross-sectional study is designed to describe the EI profile of CHD children in an attempt to understand better the role of EI in the lives of these patients through standardized assessments and if possible, to note any associated risk factors. This is the first step in understanding how we can improve the CHD patient quality of life in terms of EI.”

  •  “Holter Monitoring of Silent Arrhythmias in College Students Prescribed Stimulant Medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Jeffrey Fleming. Research Mentor: Dr. Bernard Gros, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, UCF College of Medicine, board-certified cardiologist, UCF Health.

“An increasing number of children and adults in the United States are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the medications used to treat this disease have known cardiovascular side effects including palpitations, increased blood pressure and increased hear rate. 24 hour Holter monitoring of college students taking these medications for silent arrhythmias will give new insight into the cardiovascular effects of these drugs. This research will help clarify the cardiovascular risks of ADHD medication and it will gauge the need for additional cardiovascular screening for these patients.”

  •  “Evaluation of a Radiation Safety Program in the Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory – A Standardized Approach,” Trevor Getz. Research Mentor: Dr. David Nykanen, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology, Director of Cardiac Catheterization, and Co-Director of Heart Center Orlando Health, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children Heart Center at Arnold Palmer.

“Cardiac catheterization has become an increasingly important tool in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric patients with congenital heart disease (CHD). While the associated benefits these procedures can provide are vast, there are also many risks which must be considered, primarily a significant exposure to procedural ionizing radiation. Our team studies the effects of a radiation safety program on the amount of procedural radiation that pediatric patients are exposed to in the catheterization laboratory. We hope to find a decrease in the overall amount of patient radiation exposure as well as identify aspects of the radiation safety program which may be improved, directly impacting pediatric patients’ risk of acute radiation injury and long-term risk of malignancy.”

  •  “Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Living in Central Florida,” Priya Patel. Research Mentor: Dr. Mauri Carakushansky, Division Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology, Nemours Children’s Hospital.

“An increased incidence of cardiovascular disease has been noted in type 1 diabetics but the underlying pathophysiology of the process is poorly understood. Compared to the general population, the ADA and AHA have noted an increase in coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular accident, peripheral artery disease, cardiac autonomic neuropathy and other abnormal atherosclerotic vascular findings. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency is also being studied as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease and associated with coronary calcification, myocardial infarction, stroke and congestive heart failure. Our study aims to establish and understand the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and type 1 diabetes because of the role these variables play in a variety of cardiovascular diseases and other inflammatory disorders.”







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