By Wendy Sarubbi | September 8, 2014 12:31 pm

The very personal research mission of one UCF College of Medicine student received honors at the Florida Medical Association’s 2014 David A. Paulus, M.D Poster Symposium in July. Second-year M.D. student Jae Kim received second place honors among 100 other presentations for his research on gout, a disease his brother-in-law suffers from.

Gout, a form of arthritis, causes patients excruciating joint pain that may come without warning and last for days. The pain is caused by a rise of uric acid in the blood. Kim, who earned a master’s degree in engineering at UCLA before coming to medical school, created an electrical device that measures the amount of uric acid in the blood. Currently, gout sufferers would have to go to the hospital to have such levels measured, and would typically do so only after an attack begins.

Kim is doing the gout research as part of his FIRE (Focused Inquiry and Research Experience) project, a module that requires every College of Medicine student to participate in a two-year research project. “We are delighted that Jae’s research has been recognized among all other medical students in Florida,” said FIRE Module Director Dr. Diane Jacobs. “His FIRE project is a perfect example of a student taking prior expertise gained outside of medicine (in this case engineering) and applying it to a medical problem.”

Last March, Kim won second place at the medical school’s annual  FIRE Research Conference for his oral presentation on the device, called a spectrophotometer. Roughly the size of a coffee maker, spectrophotometers are commonly used in chemistry to measure the amount of a certain chemical or substance—in this case, a blood sample.  Kim is hoping to make the device more portable and expand its uses to detect other harmful materials in the blood.

Kim said he has always been a scientific discoverer at heart and watching a relative deal with the painful symptoms of gout was the inspiration for his research. “I’ve always been a person who likes to ask questions, it’s important to be curious,” he said. “I’m really interested in preventative medicine. My motivation is to help patients detect the levels of uric acid in their blood so they can make adjustments immediately, before an attack.”

Kim said he entered the Florida Medical Association competition to demonstrate the research being done at the College of Medicine and to share scientific information with researchers across the state. He said he was inspired to seek out research opportunities long before he stepped into a medical school class.  “Dean (Deborah) German mentioned during my interview that she wants and needs students to roll up their sleeves together to strengthen the program,” he said.  “I was very intrigued by the fact that I could potentially contribute and continue my interest in research.”

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