Medical Students Impress Judges at P&S Research Day

The seed for Eugene Jang’s research came from an awkward moment on the first day of his general surgery rotation.

“I was really excited to show off my physical exam skills—I did the obturator sign for appendicitis and listened to bowel sounds—but my attending told me that, for both of those maneuvers, the evidence base says they are actually terrible tests for the things they’re supposed to detect,” he said.

Mr. Jang’15 was inspired: “It got me thinking, of all the physical exam maneuvers that we learn in medical school, how many of them are actually well supported by evidence and how many are not?”

Mr. Jang presented his findings last week at the P&S Student Research Day with 73 other medical and MD/PhD students. Twenty faculty were involved in judging the projects, which were separated into three categories: Scholarly Projects (four-month-long projects required for graduation), projects from students who took a year off to conduct research, and research conducted by MD/PhD students.

“The research here ranges from clinical to translational to basic, and that’s one thing I respect about Columbia,” says Jennifer Punt, VMD, PhD, associate dean for student research at P&S. “Columbia recognizes how multidisciplinary medicine is, and it values many different kinds of inquiry.”

Ugochi Nwosu’15, with another P&S student, helped medical students at the University of Zimbabwe establish a student-run free clinic for adolescents.

Student-run clinics are very popular in the United States and help students get leadership experience. “In developing countries, newly minted doctors are often sent off to a new place and they’re expected to serve as leaders right away,” says Ms. Nwosu. “So we thought that introducing a way for medical students to practice being leaders while they’re still students would be a great idea."

“This has been the most significant thing I’ve ever done,” she adds. “The notion that students can be enriched by being given unfettered time during medical school to follow that passion or that question was something that really attracted me to Columbia.”

At the end of the poster session, the judges told Dr. Punt that the contest was very competitive. Two winners were selected in each of the three categories:

Scholarly Projects

Ellie Coromilas'15—The Influence of Hospital and Surgeon Factors on the Prevalence of Axillary Evaluation in Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (adviser: Dawn Hershman, MD)

Margo Lederhandler'15—Increasing Mupirocin Resistance in Pediatric Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Skin and Soft-Tissue Infections in New York: A Genomic Approach (advisers: Christine Lauren, MD, and Paul Planet, MD)

Research Year Projects

Christina Del Guzzo'16—CD200 as a Molecular Marker and Therapeutic Target for High-Risk Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma (adviser: David Owens, PhD)

Elizabeth Robinson'16—Ajulemic Acid, a Novel Cannabinoid, Suppresses the Secretion of Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha and Interferon Alpha from the Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells of Dermatomyositis Patients In Vitro (adviser: Victoria Worth, MD, University of Pennsylvania)

MD/PhD Projects

Tiffany Guo'17—A Smartphone Dongle for the Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases at the Point of Care (adviser: Samuel Sia, PhD)

Sam Vidal'17—A Targetable GATA2-IGF2 Axis Confers Aggressiveness in Lethal Prostate Cancer (adviser: Carlos Cordon-Cardo, MD, PhD)

“There’s amazing value in inserting into medical education opportunities for students to follow their noses,” Dr. Punt adds. “These students are really understanding what evidence is and what it isn’t, and I think when that’s integrated within medical school, you produce doctors more familiar with how they should evaluate evidence.”