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September 14, 2012 - Clyde Huggins Recipients Announced for 2012 Medical Student Research Day

From left to right: Hayden Hundley, Christopher Smith, and Jonathan Wolfe

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine hosted its 39th annual Medical Student Research Day on Aug. 3, 2012. Dr. David Robertson, the Elton Yates Professor in Autonomic Disorders and professor of neurology, medicine, and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., was the keynote speaker.

The Clyde G. “Sid” Huggins Medical Student Research Awards, honoring the memory of Dr. Huggins who served as the first dean of students for USA’s medical school, were presented to Christopher Smith, Jonathan Wolfe and Hayden Hundley.

Smith, a sophomore medical student, was recognized for his oral presentation, titled “Disrupting ICOS: ICOS ligand interaction in lupus prone mice.” Smith was sponsored by Dr. Robert Barrington, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.

Wolfe, another sophomore medical student, was also recognized for his oral presentation, titled “Compensatory movement strategies of walking in multiple sclerosis.” Wolfe was sponsored by Drs. Anthony Martino (neurosurgery), Christopher Eckstein (neurology), and Wei Liu (physical therapy).

Hundley, also a sophomore medical student, was honored for the best poster presentation, titled "Reverse toilet training pattern in children with higher functioning autism.” Hundley was sponsored by Dr. Hanes Swingle in the department of pediatrics and Dr. Donna Wooster in the department of occupational therapy.

Smith’s project focused on a new potential lupus therapy that involves disrupting ICOS:ICOS ligand interactions. These interactions are required for a conventional germinal center response and the production of antibodies against a foreign antigen.

Smith says the experience taught him a lot, and he was most interested in finding out about immunology and how the research process works. “Actually applying some of the concepts that I learned during my first year of medical school to the research I was doing really helped to solidify those concepts,” he said. “Firsthand use of information learned in the classroom to answer a practical scientific question allows one to reach a level of understanding that simply cannot be achieved through reading textbooks.”

Hundley’s project focused on a reverse toilet training pattern in children with autism. The goals of this research were to investigate factors that contribute to delayed toilet training in the population and determining which methods parents found to be the most effective.

Hundley said he was exposed to new concepts during the project, and he now has a better understanding of the curriculum, thanks to Dr. Swingle. “This was the first opportunity I had working closely with a mentor, which I found to be one of the most invaluable aspects of the program,” he said. “The summer research program was a wonderful opportunity to supplement my medical education and provide a unique learning opportunity in a clinical setting.”

Medical Student Research Day is the culmination of the summer’s work with the presentation of oral and poster presentations. During the 10-week program, 20 first- and second-year medical students participated in research projects with basic science and clinical faculty in the College of Medicine. A weekly seminar series introduced the students to important research related areas. The program highlights the relationship between scientific discoveries and their application in clinical medicine.

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