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July 2013 Newsletter

Strong Children’s Research Center
Summer Student Program

Every summer, 15-20 students join our research team for the SCRC Summer Student Program directed by George Schwartz, M.D., Associate Chair for Research Training. Eligible participants who have completed their junior year or senior year of an undergraduate program or their first year of medical school are selected from up to 180 application packets consisting of essay-driven questions, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and curriculum vitae. These packets are carefully reviewed for commitment to research, GPA, areas of interest, future goals, and expectations from the SCRC Program. For some, this is a first research experience. For others, it is a chance to experience a different kind of research, continue an ongoing research project, or explore the world of a physician-scientist. This summer, we will mentor 18 students from 15 different universities who were chosen from 135 applicants. Three are medical students, one will be a graduate student this August, and the rest are undergraduate students. They are an impressive group, with an average GPA of 3.84 and scientific interests that range from subcellular organelles to specific organ systems to individual human diseases to population biology! Their time with us includes weekly lectures with topics covering careers in science and medicine, research ethics, and a round table discussion with a group of clinical and basic science researchers from the Department of Pediatrics. In addition, students tour the research and clinical facilities of the URMC, the Golisano Children’s Hospital, and the UR Medical School, and even attend social outings in popular Rochester venues in the evenings and on the weekends. All students are given the opportunity to shadow a pediatric physician in an outpatient clinical setting. This intensive research program culminates at the end of the ten week period with a student-prepared poster presentation.  This session is open to URMC faculty and staff, mentors of the SCRC and their research teams, as well the parents and families of the SCRC students.

Here is a brief snapshot of the diverse array of students, mentors, and projects that are making our Rochester summer so exciting!

Summer Research Overview

John Dawson, from the University of Rochester (UR), is working with C. Andrew Aligne, M.D. to analyze data gathered in an effort to define barriers and facilitators to the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in Senegal. Gregory Golembeski, also from the University of Rochester, is studying the phenomenon of the morning surge in blood pressure in children with hypertension, under mentor Marc Lande, M.D. Layla Hatem, a student at Jefferson Medical College, and mentor Gloria Pryhuber, M.D. are determining the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on oxidative stress in the newborn infant. Working with George Porter, M.D., Ph.D., Kathryn Hockensmith from Drury University is trying to determine whether the membrane portion of ATP synthase separates from the head of the molecule during permeability transition in cardiac mitochondria. How’s that for organelles to organs to people to populations?

Faraz Khan came from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to work with George Schwartz, M.D. on the role of ion transporter adaptation in acidotic cortical collecting ducts in the kidney. Rakhee Lalla, from New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, is working with surgeon Yi-Horng Lee, M.D., studying the feasibility of the STAT intervention for ASD students and their teachers. Nicklaus Lewis, from North Carolina Central University, is studying the geographic and racial correlates of adolescent opioid misuse with faculty member Leesha Hoilette, M.D., M.S., while David Luor, from Rutgers University, is evaluating an integrated care pathway for children with asthma with faculty member Eric Biondi, M.D. Mandy Hei Ma has joined us from University of Buffalo School of Medicine to work with child neurologist Alex Paciorkowski, M.D. on using a novel developmental assessment tool to evaluate children with abnormalities in the FOXG1 gene. Proof positive that research is not just one thing!

The work of John (Jay) Petosa from St. Lawrence University and Heidi Connolly, M.D. is aimed at comparing quality of life outcomes in adenotonsillectomy vs. CPAP in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in overweight and obese children and adolescents. Jonathan Pierce came from St. Bonaventure University to work with Francis Gigliotti, M.D. on the effect of macrophage phenotype and opsonins on phagocytosis of Pneumocystis, a cause of pneumonia in immunocompromised patients. Taylor Streetor, from Tougaloo College, is working with Ruth Lawrence, M.D. on the effect of quiet or listening to music while breastfeeding on the production and lipid and sodium content of breast milk. From Williams College, Daniel Underberg is working with Tristram Smith, Ph.D. as a Haggerty-Friedman Scholar, studying the impact of preoperative imaging studies on the efficiency of care for pediatric appendicitis. Kathryn Voss, from the College of William and Mary, is working with Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H. on a project aimed at determining current childhood obesity rates in Monroe County. Intellectual diversity? It’s our middle name!

Chantelle White, a University of Rochester student, is working with Kate Ackerman, M.D. defining cardiac morphology in a genetic mouse model found to have a congenital heart defect. Another University of Rochester student, Claire Wyman, is working with Mary Caserta, M.D. on respiratory pathogen co-infection in children with respiratory syncytial virus infection. Emily Leubner, who joined us from the University of Pittsburgh, and her mentor, Laurie Steiner, M.D. are studying the effects of erythropoietin on neuronal cells exposed to hypoxia. Finally, Chelsea Young, a student at the University of Connecticut, is studying the inhibition of STAT3 function in primitive and definitive erythropoiesis.

In a day and age in which many bemoan the disappearance of the physician-scientist, we are training, mentoring and nurturing the next generation of these extraordinarily creative and industrious individuals! We have always made this enterprise a priority. Our children and families deserve nothing less than to know we will always foster the pursuit of the next diagnosis, the next cure, the next preventive strategy. Of course, it gets harder and harder to fund this wonderful program as time goes on. The Haggerty-Friedman Fund has started us off, endowing funded positions for one or two students annually who work on developmental and behavioral pediatrics projects. Anyone interested in following their lead?

Learn more about the SCRC Summer Student Program.