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Richard Trieu, a second-year student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, spent the summer at the University of Washington in Seattle, studying type 2 diabetes as part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Medical Student Research Program in Diabetes.
Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health through the NIDDK, the program allows medical students to conduct research under the direction of an established scientist in the areas of diabetes, hormone action, physiology, islet cell biology or obesity at an institution with one of the NIDDK-funded research centers during the summer between the first and second year or second and third year of medical school.
Trieu worked with the University of Washington's Dr. Steven Kahn, an endocrinologist and principal investigator of a basic science research lab focused on type 2 diabetes.
"My project looked at an inhibitor of β-cell death, apoptosis repressor with caspase recruitment domain (ARC)," Trieu said. "We investigated whether the reduction of endogenous ARC would increase β-cell death in unstressed mouse islets."
At the end of the summer, Trieu – along with 130 other students from more than 70 medical schools – traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to present at the NIDDK scientific symposium for all program participants.
"It was interesting to see how institutions prioritized their curriculum and student programming," he said. "We presented our summer research projects to each other in moderated groups, which exposed me to a lot of interesting fields within diabetes and nephrology from multiple research perspectives (clinical, translational and basic science)."
Trieu said the NIDDK summer program was a great opportunity to explore the city of Seattle for the first time and to hone in on the type of research that interests him. The goal of the program is to help medical students gain a better understanding of career opportunities in biomedical research as well as a comprehensive understanding of diabetes, its clinical manifestations and its unsolved problems.
"Given that this was my first time to investigate a topic outside of neuroscience, I found it interesting to see the similarities and differences in methodology and logic between the two fields," said Trieu, who earned his bachelor's degree in neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2017. "It was nice to focus on one topic over the summer and try to understand it on a deeper level. Since my principal investigator is a practicing endocrinologist, I also got a glimpse on how he balanced his career in research with clinical career."
With his first year of medical school at USA under his belt, Trieu said he had a solid foundation of biochemistry, immunology, anatomy and the cardiovascular system that he was able to pull from when conducting research over the summer.
"However, I think the most important part of my education so far was learning to think about the totality of a disease. My time at South Alabama has challenged me to understand how a disease presents, is diagnosed, is treated, and its epidemiology," he said. "My training here allowed me to better understand the cell death process that underlies type 2 diabetes as well as better appreciate the clinical relevance and patients affected by the pathology."
Learn more about the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the NIDDK Medical Student Research Program in Diabetes.
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