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August 25, 2014 - Clyde Huggins Recipients Announced for 2014 Medical Student Research Day
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University of South Alabama College of Medicine student Haylie Reed poses for a picture with biochemistry professor Dr. Richard Honkanen. Reed was one of the winners of the 41st COM Summer Medical Student Research Program Clyde Huggins Award.

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University of South Alabama College of Medicine student James White poses for a picture with physiology professor Dr. Michael V. Cohen (left), and retired physiology professor Dr. James Downey (right). White was one of the winners of the 41st COM Summer Medical Student Research Program Clyde Huggins Award.

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine hosted its 41st annual Medical Student Research Day on Aug. 1, 2014. Dr. Arthur Grollman, distinguished professor of pharmacological sciences, Evelyn G. Glick Professor of Experimental Medicine, and director of the Zickler Laboratory of Chemical Biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, gave the key note address during the summer research day.

The Clyde G. “Sid” Huggins Medical Student Research Awards, honoring the memory of Dr. Huggins, were presented to James White and Haylie Reed. Clyde G. “Sid” Huggins served as the first dean of students for USA’s College of Medicine.

Reed, an incoming freshman medical student, was recognized for the best oral presentation, titled “Mutation of Human Phosphatases.” Reed was sponsored by Dr. Richard Honkanen, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Reed’s project helped her gain knowledge about cloning, the cas9 CRISPR system, and phosphatases. Not only could information learned during the course of this project lead to future developments in cancer research, but the same technology could potentially be utilized to alter other genes.

“I was originally interested in this project because it dealt with a relatively new technology that I didn’t have any prior experience with, yet it still incorporated some of my previous experience with cell culture work and seemed to tie in some of my biomedical engineering background,” said Reed.

According to Reed, one of the most valuable elements of her research project was the amount of time that Dr. Honkanen, in particular, put in to make sure that she understood concepts addressed in lab work.” It reassured me that the faculty here is dedicated to helping students succeed. This experience primarily benefited me by allowing me to orient myself with this university before the stresses associated with starting medical school set in,” said Reed.

James White, a rising sophomore medical student, was recognized for the best poster presentation, titled “P2Y12 receptor antagonists postcondition the heart through release of sphingosine from platelets.” White was sponsored by Dr. Michael V. Cohen, professor of physiology and internal medicine and mentored by Dr. James M. Downey, professor emeritus in the department of physiology.

White’s project examined the mechanism by which P2Y12 receptor antagonists provide protection against cardiac cell death in hearts subjected to a period of ischemia, or lack of blood flow.

“Over the course of the summer I gained a greater appreciation for medical research and everything that is involved. It requires patience as well as passion, and can be frustrating one day and rewarding the next,” explained White.

The regular interaction with professional mentors can be considered an invaluable component of the 10-week program. “I really enjoyed working with my mentors, Dr. Cohen and Dr. Downey. We talked about the project every day and they taught me a lot about research in general as well as the specific science that was central to the project,” White said.

During the 10-week summer program, first- and second-year medical students participate in research projects with basic science and clinical faculty in the College of Medicine. Students present their research projects either orally or on poster at the culmination of the summer research program where they are judged by COM faculty on the presentations. Winners are given a plaque and a cash award of $100 each. 

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