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Medical Scholar Explorer Alumni


 Medical Scholar Explorers, Class of 2022

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Clinical research in Health disparities
Mentor: Robin Page, PhD, RN, CNM

Megan Badejo, M2 student in the College of Medicine, participated in a research project investigating the link between preterm birth and religiosity in low-income, minority populations in Texas under the guidance of Robin Page, PhD, RN, CNM Assistant Professor in the Texas A&M College of Nursing. The Hispanic paradox describes the relationship between low rates of preterm birth in low-income Hispanic women, their level of acculturation and potential protective factors. A pilot study indicated high rates of religiosity are associated with low rates of preterm birth, supporting the idea that religiosity allows for a framework embodying positive mental health and positive health behaviors found through social support. This corresponds with the widely accepted concept of documented research noting health practices that promote healthy behaviors such as tobacco-free pregnancies resulting in low rates of preterm birth. In addition, blood samples were collected within the pilot study to measure telomere length as a biomarker for stress, known to correlate with preterm birth. Previously conducted studies have associated shortened telomeres to adverse prenatal conditions associated with maternal stress, thus it is paramount as researchers to evaluate how these contribute to the prediction of preterm birth and health disparities in birth outcomes. To expand data collection, the findings will be translated to expectant African American women, the population with the highest rates of preterm birth of all ethnicities, in a clinic serving the Dallas, Texas region.

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Basic research in Lymphatic biology
Mentor: Joseph Rutkowski PhD

Napoleon Busbuso, M2 student in the Neuropsychological of Medicine, participated in a research in lymphatic biology, under the guidance of Joseph Rutkowski, PhD Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Physiology at Texas A&M College of Medicine. Lymphatic vessels maintain tissue homeostasis in part by providing a route of fluid and macromolecule transport from the periphery. Lymph is formed by the extravasation of fluid from the blood vasculature - a process that is both passively and actively regulated by the blood endothelium. Conversely, lymphatic uptake is thought to be passive, through overlapping lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) cell-cell junctions. Whether LECs utilize active uptake or active transport to maintain vessel pressure gradients is unknown. Caveolin 1 (Cav1) is a structural membrane protein necessary in the formation of caveolae. Endothelial caveolae play a host of roles in endothelial cell biology, but notably, in active trans-endothelial transport. Cav1 knockout mice are viable, and, interestingly, demonstrate increased blood permeability. The proposed research project will assess whether lymphatic uptake is altered in Cav1 mice, whether Cav1 is necessary for lymphatic vessel transport, and whether Cav1 null LECs afford equivalent macromolecule barrier function.

Campus: Houston Methodist, Houston, TX
Research Area: Clinical research in Pulmonary medicine
Mentor: Horiana B. Grosu, MD

Wajahat Dawood, M2 student in the College of Medicine, participated in a number of research projects under the guidance of Horiana B. Grosu, MD, a licensed Interventional Pulmonologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our first goal was to identify unique presentations of various cases such as mediastinal lymphadenitis in a patient with Nocardiosis. The diagnosis criteria for mediastinal lymphadenitis in Nocardiosis can be made with deep fine needle aspiration in conjunction with a bronchoalveolar lavage and imaging studies such as PET/CT or chest CT. Nocardiosis’s most common clinical presentation involves pulmonary findings of nodules, cavitation, consolidation, pleural effusion, and hilar mass affecting mainly immunocompromised patients. The current treatment for nocardiosis includes trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), amikacin, ceftriaxone, and linezolid. Our second goal was to recognize and construct a case image report of a rare occurrence of untreated pneumonic-induced pleural effusions resulting in fibrothorax. The diagnosis criteria for pleural effusions can be made with a diagnostic thoracentesis by analyzing the pleural fluid in conjunction with imaging studies such as chest X-ray or chest CT. Pleural effusions can progress to empyemas without early antibiotic treatment and current treatment includes therapeutic thoracentesis, thoracostomy, and broad-spectrum antibiotics. If left untreated, it can progress to a fibrothorax requiring decortication. Alongside these case reports, Dawood worked on data collection and entry to evaluate the role of Renal, Age, Purulence, Infection Source, and Dietary Factors (RAPID) score for empyemas through a retrospective chart review and contribute as an author to a peer-reviewed original research report. The RAPID score is done to assess patients at a higher risk of mortality after having a confirmed pleural infection.

Campus: Baylor Scott and White, Temple, TX
Research Area: Clinical research in Military medicine
Mentor: Ashok K. Shetty, PhD

Brandon Dickey, M2 student in the College of Medicine, participated in the development of a research proposal on the mechanisms underlying systemic dysfunction in Gulf War Illness and promising therapeutic strategies. Under the guidance of Ashok K. Shetty, PhD, Professor and Associate Director of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine, at Texas A&M College of Medicine, their research goals are aimed at strengthening military medicine and providing better care to our veterans. An estimated 25 to 32 percent of 700,000 U.S. Warfighters of the 1991 Gulf War continue to experience multiple unexplained health problems including fatigue, headaches, cognitive dysfunction, musculoskeletal pain, respiratory, gastrointestinal and dermatologic complaints. The objective is to prepare a full-length, cohesive review article that covers underlying pathophysiology in animal models and therapeutic clinical trials for Gulf War Illness. Current areas of focus are persistent oxidative stress, induction of genes involved in ROS, mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic neuroinflammation, and metabolic microbiome reprogramming. Additional therapeutics involve the effects of Coenzyme Q therapy, alterations in DNA methylation status, fMRI resting state networks, and exercise-induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs. Synthesis of these underlying pathophysiological processes would lead to better therapeutic regimens for this population of servicemen and women as well as for those to come.

Campus: Baylor Scott and White, Temple, TX
Research Area: Neuropsychological basis for executive function
Mentor: Jared Benge, PhD

Tiffany Holland, M2 student in the College of Medicine, is currently participating in a research project in neuropsychology under the guidance of Jared Benge, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine. Their research goal is to re-evaluate data from the NIH EXAMINER (Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research) study. Their study is designed to create a core set of measurements intended to measure the breadth of executive functions of the human brain. Executive functions refer to a collection of cognitive abilities that involve planning, problem-solving, decision-making, and self- control. Moreover, measures of traditional executive tasks such as working memory, inhibition, set shifting, and verbal fluency are also analyzed. Additionally, the battery includes an unstructured task (UT), a measurement that correlated with lesions in the medial frontal and orbitofrontal regions of the brain. A major aim of this study is to refine the psychometric properties of the UT in older adults, by determining the ecological validity of this instrument by correlating it with caregiver rated real world executive dysfunction on the Behavior Rating Inventory for Executive Functioning (BRIEF). The predictive validity of this instrument will be used to distinguish normal controls from those patients with disorders of fronto-subcortical circuits and specific frontal lobe lesions.

Campus: Houston Methodist, Houston, TX
Research Area: Basic research in Traumatic brain injury
Mentor: Lee Shapiro, PhD

Ryan Jang, M2 student in the College of Medicine, participated in the development of a research proposal on traumatic brain injury with a focus on post-traumatic neuroinflammation and depression, under the guidance of Lee A. Shapiro, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. The main overarching objective for Ryan’s research proposal is to examine neuroinflammatory signatures that may predict the onset of long-term post-traumatic depression. The incidence of depression is estimated to be as high as 66% after a moderate TBI and as high as 50% after a mild TBI. Given that there are 2-3 million TBIs in the United States each year, at least half of these patients are at substantial risk of developing depression. Previous work has implicated neuroinflammation following TBI as a possible contributing factor to the detrimental post-traumatic outcomes. In addressing neuroinflammatory components of post-traumatic depression, Ryan’s objectives are as follows: demonstrate proficiency in general laboratory histological techniques; functionally implement immunohistochemistry procedures, to effectively investigate the TBI-induced inflammatory response and its association with post-traumatic depression; critically analyze scientific and clinical data, including article review and presentation; compare and contrast the neuroanatomy of humans with that of rodents, to advance his understanding of translational medicine, most specifically in the context of neuroscience, neurology and neurosurgery; demonstrate excellence in the overall research project, by presenting the study in various settings; achieve distinction in scientific writing, by contributing as an author to a peer-reviewed review article and/or an original research report.

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Basic research in Hepatic oncology
Mentor: Robert Tsai, MD, PhD

Kelley Liao, M2 student in the College of Medicine, participated in the development of a research proposal, under the guidance of Robert Yu-Lin Tsai, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Center for Translational Cancer Research at the Institute of Biosciences and Technology. The objective of the research proposal under development is to study novel epigenetic regulation of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) induced liver diseases, including fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Her project will focus on the epigenetic mechanisms that drive the pathogenesis of NAFLD related liver diseases to improve efforts for early disease prevention. Texas has the 2nd highest incidence in HCC and more than 80% of those cases are linked to NAFLD. Their first objective is to catalogue, based on extensive literature review, what have been studied in the epigenetic fields of NAFLD, liver fibrosis (NALFD or viral hepatitis), cirrhosis (NAFLD or viral hepatitis), and HCC (NAFLD or viral hepatitis). The epigenetic mechanisms in focus will be DNA methylation, DNA hydroxymethylation, and histone modification (HDAC). The second objective is to identify critical knowledge gaps. Based on the identified knowledge gaps, Kelley and Dr. Tsai will generate a list of potential working hypotheses, as well as a summary of the literature review in the form of a review article.

Campus: CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital
Research Area: Clinical research in telebehavioral mental health | Basic research in vascular physiology
Mentor: Carly McCord PhD | Pooneh Bagher, PhD

Astha Mittal, M2 student in the College of Medicine, is participating in a research project investigating the effects of patient-provider matching in a telebehavioral clinical setting. She is designing a study under the guidance of Carly E. McCord, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Director of telebehavioral Care at Texas A&M, and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Educational Psychology. Their research project focuses on investigating whether there are improved patient care outcomes in by matching patients with the demographics of their mental health provider in rural settings across Texas. Their goal is to elucidate how this may be different in the context of in person counseling using a telebehavioral health platform. They anticipate that their findings will be applicable in future scheduling of the patients utilizing the counseling center and other mental health services.

As a concurrent MSE pathway, Astha is participating in vascular physiology project under the guidance of Pooneh Bagher, PhD Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Physiology at Texas A&M College of Medicine. It is thought that sympathetic nerve activation stimulates arterial constriction predominately through the release of norepinephrine (NE), adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurotransmitters. Her project analyses the composition of neurotransmitters released in response to sympathetic nerve stimulation in mesenteric arteries by comparing the composition in 2 distinct animal models.

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Medical Humanities research in the history of vaccination
Mentor: Gül Russell, PhD

Paul H. Paris, M2 student in the College of Medicine, is participating in a longitudinal research project in medical humanities that investigates the history of vaccinations under the mentorship of Gül Russell, PhD Professor of Medical Humanities. Their history of medicine project extends from the first inoculation with cowpox as a protective measure for smallpox by Edward Jenner in the late 18th century to the current development and growing backlash of vaccinations. Their study will include researching the history of vaccination through Jenner’s initial papers and documents, in order to understand the historical context of the medical interpretation of certain techniques and methods. It will also include analysis of different cartoons of the time, particularly the work of James Gillray, who provided a societal critique of Jenner’s work. These illustrations will provide a closer look at the criticism from the public towards the use of vaccinations, with the goal of being able to tie together some of the views with those from today, specifically through the use of additional primary accounts and artwork. Together, these findings will hopefully provide a historical context to the fear of vaccinations, so that certain misconceptions can be addressed, and any unease can be settled.

Campus: CHI-St Joseph Health Regional Hospital, Bryan, TX
Research Area: Design of a novel cardiac interventional device
Mentor: Alan B. Lumsden, MD

Shreena Patidar, an M2 in the College of Medicine, participates in an organization at Texas A&M named SLING Health, which is a biotechnology incubator. She is a member of a team of 6 undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Engineering and College of Medicine. Their main objective is to design and prototype a cardiac device that will safeguard patients undergoing percutaneous aortic valve replacement (TAVR) from emboli-induced cerebral lesions. Under the guidance of Dr. Alan B. Lumsden, M.D. and chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Houston Methodist Hospital, their research goals aim to improve cardiac surgical outcomes. Despite TAVR’s high success in relieving valvular disease in high-risk patients, this minimally invasive procedure, is associated with significant adverse neurological effects. Unfortunately, TAVR can sometimes dislodge plaques from the vessel walls, sending these emboli to the brain through major branches off the aorta and cause ischemic brain damage. Data estimates that out that 3-6% of patients will have overt strokes while 84% of TAVR patients will have silent, symptomless brain damage post-TAVR. Their solution involves improving on existing embolic protection devices (EPDs), which innovative undisclosed design may ultimately be commercialized.

Campus: Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, TX
Research Area: Lifestyle medicine
Mentor: Mark D. Faries, PhD 

Sara Yasrebi, M2 student in the College of Mecicine, participated in a research project in Lifestyle Medicine to query a physician’s role to improve patient health by referring to community-based nutrition education, under the guidance of Mark D. Faries, PhD, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Adjunct Faculty within the Health Science Center. Dietary risks are the leading risk factor for premature death in the United States, with greater disparities in low-income and rural families without adequate access to quality healthcare and quality, nutritional education. Lifestyle Medicine is the evidence-based, lifestyle therapeutic approach to prevent, treat and reverse lifestyle-related disease. While physicians might feel that nutritional counseling is within the realm of their care, many have barriers to implement nutrition-based education in practice, and depend on community-based, nutrition education programs designed for at-risk populations. The objectives of this study were to (1) identify a physician's ability to locate community nutrition education programs, and (2) identify which programs could positively impact the health care outcome of their patients. Our findings showed that while certain key words yielded a higher proportion of relevant results, the proportion of pertinent nutrition programs found within the first 10 results were low. The phrases with the largest proportion of results within the first 2 pages (> 75%) were “community education nutrition programs low-income” and “diet nutrition education programs low-income Texas”. The addition of “low-income” to the search phrase produce a more data, while the addition of “rural” or “programs” were not helpful. These findings reinforce the idea that a strategically-phrased Google-search and proper evaluation of such results poses a short-term fix to the high-demand and low-supply of formally-educated nutrition advising by physicians.


Ms Hatfield, McCune, Desai and Mr. Fan, a team of M3 students in the AIM program at Texas A&M College of Medicine are taking a longitudinal medical scholarly research elective MHUM823 to conduct an interprofessional home visit program under the guidance of a team of health professionals in the College of Medicine (Dr.Chapa), Nursing (Ms Hardy) and Pharmacy (Dr. Carrino). A study reported that up 30% of visits to the emergency department (ED) could have been treated by primary care doctors or other care settings. This study concluded that the 4.3 million avoidable visits resulted in $8.3 billion loss in medical resources (Premier,Inc. 2019. Improving the Care of Patients with Chronic Conditions). Inappropriate ED visits due to hypertension, diabetes, COPD/asthma, and heart failure result in unnecessary usage of medical resources, depriving those in more critical conditions of adequate care. CHI St. Joseph Hospital in Bryan, Texas and the Texas A&M HSC College of nursing initiated an Inter-Professional Education (IPE) Home Visit Program with the goal of reducing preventable ED visits related to the above mentioned chronic diseases, while simultaneously improving medical access to those identified patients. Students from the College of Nursing, College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy participate in the program through case reviews. Through the IPE Home Visits Program research, we hope to identify the most common chronic health conditions that are associated with repeat ED visits, the barriers to healthcare, potential reductions in healthcare expenditures, as well as the health outcomes of enrolled patients. We predict that IPE Home Visits Program research data findings will not only reduce unnecessary financial burden to the healthcare system, but more importantly improve the health and access to medical care of those patients who would otherwise ‘fall between the cracks’ of medical attention.

Medical Scholar Explorers, Class of 2021

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Cardiology | Risk assessment for complications of left ventricular device
Mentor: Medhat Askar, MD, PhD | Detlef Wencker, MD

Dipesh Bhakta, M4 student at the College of Medicine, is conducting a clinical research study investigating the risk of cardiovascular complications under the mentorship Dr. Detlef Wenker, MD cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center and Affiliate Faculty at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. Right ventricular failure (RVF) following left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation is a common complication and associated with increased mortality. Clinical predictors contributing to post-LVAD RVF remain largely unknown in patients who have received the recently FDA approved Heartmate III (HM3) LVAD. Our objective was to evaluate potential predictors of RVF. In our study, RVF was not prevented by optimizing traditional preoperative hemodynamic risk factors for RVF (CVP ≤ 12, CVP / wedge ratio ≤0.6, and PAPi >2) and occurred irrespective of echocardiographically guided preoperative RV function. The development of RVF after HM3 LVAD implant was highly associated with lower LVAD speed in this study. This project resulted in poster presentations at the American College of Cardiology.20 Together With World Congress of Cardiology (03/2020) and 2020 Anerucab Transplant Congress (05/2020) national conferences.

Campus: Baylor Scott and White, Temple, TX
Research Area: Rare autoimmune disorders
Mentor: James Hall, DO

Jonaphine Rae Mata, MS4 in the College of Medicine, participated in a case report study under the mentorship of James A. Hall, D.O. a Fellow in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Baylor Scott & White in Temple, Texas. Under his guidance, Ms. Mata documented a patient case report with a rare condition, Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome (ALPS), which she has presented at multiple medical conferences.

Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by dysregulated lymphocyte apoptosis leading to non-malignant lymphoproliferation. The pathophysiology of ALPS leads to lymphoproliferative stigmata, with an increased risk of development of concurrent autoimmune conditions. In this report, they present a remarkable patient case of ALPS with acquired hemophilia A that subsequently, developed lupus anticoagulant (LA) positivity. Of note, the development of acquired hemophilia A portends to an increased risk of life-threatening bleeding, whereas LA positivity leads to a strong thrombotic risk. Thus, the transition from the management of bleeding to thrombotic risk in a patient with the rare ALPS presents a special case.

This patient case demonstrates a clinical dilemma of achieving hemostatic equilibrium in patients with the rare ALPS and opposing hematologic conditions. The utilization of clinical reasoning based on principles of hematology allows for proper management of this rare condition. Recognition of the ability of ALPS to present with autoimmune conditions that portend to hemostatic instability will aid in the future screening, treatment and management of ALPS patients.