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April 24, 2014 - USA Medical Student is Second Place Winner of Young Investigator Award
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McGrath 02-web.jpgBrian McGrath, a first-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently chosen as the second-place winner of the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation Young Investigator Award.

As part of the award, McGrath presented his research titled “Role of Aspergillus fumigatus sialidase in the disruption of pulmonary artery and pulmonary microvascular endothelia” at the Southern Regional Meeting of several societies including the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, the Southern Region of the American Federation for Medical Research, the Southern Society of General Internal Medicine, the Southern Society for Pediatric Research, the Southern Region of the American Pediatric Association, as well as the American Society for Nutrition.

McGrath’s project, which also won first place for best medical research poster at USA’s 40th annual Medical Student Research Day in 2013, involved a closer look at Aspergillus fumigatus, which is a fungus of the genus Aspergillus, and is one of the most common Aspergillus species to cause disease in individuals with an immunodeficiency. He studied its effect on the pulmonary artery and pulmonary microvascular endothelia.

The project is looking into the effect of sialidase on the organism's ability to disrupt pulmonary artery and pulmonary microvascular endothelia. “Our preliminary data indicated that the enzyme may play a role in both the organism's growth and its ability to disrupt these endothelial barriers,” said McGrath. “Further research is needed to separate these different effects and to confirm conclusions.”

McGrath was sponsored by Dr. Jarrod Fortwendel, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology; Dr. Eugene Cioffi, associate professor of pharmacology; and Dr. Donna Cioffi, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. “I am so thankful for all of the guidance and support I've received from my faculty mentors and other lab partners,” said McGrath. “They have taught me so much about how to do research over the past year, and I know that the significant amount of time they’ve invested in me has been instrumental in providing the promising results and exciting opportunities I’ve had with this project so far.”

“Brian is a hard-working, highly-focused student and his maturity and collaborative nature were evident from his first day in the laboratory,” said Dr. Fortwendel. “These attributes served him well for this project, as he split time between two labs with different research programs. It is exactly these personal attributes and skills that will also aid him in developing into a top-notch physician.”

This opportunity to present his project to scientists at all stages in their careers provided McGrath with a variety of different perspectives on how to continue the project this summer, as part of the 41st annual Medical Student Research Day.

“This award really means a lot to me,” said McGrath. “It allowed me to attend the first scientific meeting of my medical career with the added bonus of the opportunity to hear from and interact with other speakers at the conference -- which taught me a lot about many aspects of patient care and about the clinical research process in general.”

“This glimpse into what a career in academic medicine might look like certainly gave me a lot to think about as I continue to explore the different career paths available to me in medicine,” said McGrath.

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