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Four rising fourth-year students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently participated in the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) 3rd annual Research Symposium in Montgomery, Ala.
The students – Mariah Sankey, Perrin Windham, Josh Kay and Lauren Chastian – were among the 39 students and residents chosen to present their research.
At the conference, Sankey received second place for her poster presentation titled “Value of CRP Monitoring in Detecting Clozapine-Induced Myocarditis.” Her research project examined the relationship between c-reactive protein (CRP) levels and impending myocarditis – an inflammatory process of the heart – among patients being treated with clozapine.
“Although clozapine is an efficient anti-psychotic drug used to treat patients with treatment refactory schizophrenia, it is highly underutilized due to the potential side effects of low blood cell counts and myocarditis,” Sankey said.
Sankey said an encounter with patient who was prescribed clozapin during her psychiatry rotation inspired her to conduct research on clozapine-induced myocarditis. “The progress made by the patient was remarkable. He was like night and day after we prescribed clozapine,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to signs and symptoms of myocarditis we discontinued the medication due to lack of resources being immediately available.”
According to Sankey, her overarching goal is to help mental health patients who cannot help themselves. “If there is more research done to establish protocols to detect clozapine-induced myocarditis, patients will have more access to the drug and doctors would feel more comfortable administering it.”
Windham received third place for her presentation on “The Significance of PKGIB in cGMP Induced Death of Breast Cancer Cells.”
She completed his research as part of the McNair Scholars Program while earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Montevallo. “I became interested in cancer at a young age, because my father passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was 8,” she said. “When I was presented the opportunity to conduct research during my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted it to relate to oncology.”
Windham conducted her research on breast cancer with Dr. Heather Tinsely, associate professor of biology at the University of Montevallo. Together, they studied PKG – a specific protein in the cells – to see if it was necessary for cell death to occur. “We knew the activation of a certain pathway by high dose NSAIDs would cause cell death, especially in triple negative breast cancer cells – one of the more aggressive forms,” she said. “However, the drugs used cause many side effects, so our goal was to find a novel target for treatment with less adverse effects.”
Ultimately, their research found that PKG helped to cause death of the triple negative breast cancer cells and could be a novel target for drug therapy in the future.“Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer related death in women in the United States,” she said. “Identifying proteins that play important roles in breast cancer development and progression is paramount in the quest for improving detection and preventing development.”
Kay’s research project, titled “Complex Management of Acute Gastrointestinal Bleed in the Setting of Multiple Risk Factors for Venous Thromboembolism,” focused on deep venous thrombosis – an obstructive thrombin clot most commonly located in the deep veins of the lower extremities.
Chastain presented “Access to Care in the Spanish Universal Healthcare System: Gynecology and Cardiology Appointments and Hospitalizations in the Canary Islands,” at the conference. Her project focused on affordable access to and efficient provision of cardiology and obstetric and gynecology care at the Hosptial Universitario Nuestro Señora de Candelaria on Tenerife, Spanish Canary Islands.
The Medical Association of the State of Alabama is the professional association for some 7,000 physicians of all specialties throughout Alabama. The association exists to serve, lead and unite physicians in promoting the highest quality of health care for the people of Alabama through advocacy, information and education.
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