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May 9, 2011 - USA Medical Student Awarded 2011 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship
Luke Wiggins, a third-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently awarded the 2011 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship presented by Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

Wiggins, who is in the MD with Research Honors Program at the USA College of Medicine, will conduct his research project in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at USA, under the direction of Dr. Petra Rocic, assistant professor of biochemsitry.

Dr. Jonathan Scammell, professor of comparative medicine and pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine and chair of the MD with Research Honors Program Committee, said the award is a well-deserved recognition for Wiggins and his mentor Dr. Rocic, who he said hosts an outstanding environment for Wiggins’ studies.

“Any medical student with an interest in research should view a successful fellowship application as a first step toward gaining a highly competitive residency position and entering a career in academic medicine,” Dr. Scammell said.

According to Wiggins, his research project uses lab models to investigate the expression and activation of matrix metalloproteinases during a repetitive ischemia, or blood supply restriction, protocol used to induce coronary collateral growth.

Wiggins said coronary collateral growth is a non-invasive alternative to current interventions aimed at coronary re-vascularization – the process of restoring blood flow to the heart – and thus can be an important factor in the amount and degree to which the myocardium is affected by the obstruction of major coronary vessels.

Studies show the number one cause of death in the U.S. to be heart disease. “The long term significance of this project lies in the hope to one day understand how to therapeutically induce the formation of coronary collateral vessels to reduce the effects of myocardial infarction on the heart,” Wiggins said.

“I believe that this project will enhance my medical education by furthering my understanding of how research is conducted,” Wiggins added. “It will act as a learning experience that will equip me with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue future opportunities in research throughout my career.”

The fellowship program honors Carolyn L. Kuckein, long-time administrator of Alpha Omega Alpha and an honorary member of the society, who died in 2004.

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