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UW WWAMI Medical Students Participate in Research Symposium

November 19, 2021
Bret Andrew, Taylor Kennedy, Sierra Levene and Audrey Lucas

Students in the Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program recently presented their research projects through poster displays and viewings by academic judges and the public during the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences’ third annual research symposium. 

All medical students in the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program are required to complete research during their time in the program. Most students participate in research projects during the summer between their first and second years of medical school. Students are required to present their summer projects in the form of poster presentations.

The Nov. 8 event was hosted by Ivinson Memorial Hospital and held in the hospital’s atrium.

Eleven students took part in the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) this past summer in which, during a four-week rotation, each student works side by side with a primary care physician in a rural or urban underserved community. While at their RUOP sites, students also are expected to complete an abbreviated community health assessment to identify both community assets and public health issues.

Taylor Kennedy completed her RUOP project in her hometown of Cody with Dr. Adam Peters, a family medicine physician who practices at the Billings Clinic.

“I researched community-based interventions to improve sun-safe behaviors and increase skin cancer awareness in an effort to decrease the incidence of skin cancer in Cody,” she says. “I chose this topic because Cody has a higher incidence of skin cancer than both Wyoming and the U.S. averages.

“Participating in RUOP has been the most rewarding experience I have had in medical school, so far, because of the hands-on nature; the connections with the medical community in my hometown; and my ongoing pursuits to improve skin cancer education,” she adds.

During this past summer, Ariel Gjovig, a second-year medical student from Gillette, spent a month learning at Crook County Medical Services District in Sundance with Dr. Heith Waddell as her preceptor.

“During my RUOP experience, I had the opportunity to be involved in patient care, including taking a medical history; performing physical exams; charting; and helping with medical procedures,” Gjovig says. “I also received the invaluable experience of learning about what it takes to practice medicine in a rural area and the importance of community support.

“In addition to medical experience, I also was given opportunities to do two different kinds of research. I did a community-based research project and learned about diabetes nutrition struggles in a rural area as well as worked with Dr. Waddell to write a case study-based research article that will be published in a professional journal this spring,” she continues. “Overall, this experience solidified my path into rural medicine and built an immense amount of confidence in my skills as a future physician.”

At the same time, seven students took part in an area of research called Scholarship of Discovery (SoD). This empirical research examines new discoveries made through original investigation. A hypothesis is made regarding the relationship between variables, and a study attempts to validate the hypothesis through observation. The study may take the form of a basic laboratory study; a survey; a secondary analysis of an existing data set; a chart review; a qualitative study; or a prospective clinical trial.

Bret Andrew, a second-year medical student from Casper, chose the SoD route with Dr. Joseph McGinley, an interventional radiologist in Casper. Andrew studied the effects of combining two known joint injections -- hyaluronic acid and corticosteroids -- for osteoarthritis to study their long-term pain reduction as a therapy.

“I enjoyed getting to work with Dr. McGinley greatly and learning about his patient population, which happens to be my hometown of Casper. Our results were very promising as a treatment of osteoarthritis, and I hope our project helps educate practitioners on a safe and effective way to treat these patients suffering from knee pain,” Andrew says. “It showed me a different angle of academic research that I hadn’t experienced -- retrospective studies -- and has taught me that it is very possible to continue contributing to the greater database of clinical knowledge in the United States as an M.D.

“I look forward to implementing what I learned into my practice as a future physician and am grateful to all of the University of Wyoming faculty, as well as Dr. McGinley and his staff, for their assistance in this experience,” he adds. 

2021 Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program Research Symposium awardees are:

Bret Andrew -- first place, SoD.

Sierra Levene -- second place, RUOP/SoD.

Audrey Lucas -- first place, RUOP.

In a separate award category, members of the public attending the event were invited to choose their favorite research poster by popular vote. Kennedy won the People’s Choice Award.

Medical student presenters, listed by hometown, name, project title and RUOP/SoD placement site, are:

Byron -- Austin Ellis, “Shear Wave Elastography in Tissue-Mimicking Phantoms,” VA Center for Limb Loss and Mobility in Seattle, Wash.

Casper -- Bret Andrew, “Sequential Intraarticular Corticosteroid and Hyaluronic Acid Provides Significant Knee Injury Osteoarthritis Symptom Improvement,” The McGinley Clinic in Casper; Joseph Keating, “Oral History of COVID-19 in Sundance, WY,” Sundance; and Dane Patey, “Performance of Alcohol Symptom Checklists Between Virtual and in Person Primary Care Visits,” MedStar in Seattle, Wash.

Cheyenne -- Jackson McCue, “Sinus Rinse Education for Coal Miners in Douglas, WY,” Douglas; Rikki Nelson, “The Use of High Frequency Ultrasound for in Vivo Pregnancy to Monitor and Assess Fetal Development after Endocrine Disruption,” Laramie; and Bryce Snow, “Access to Exercise Facilities in Uinta County, WY,” Evanston.

Cody -- Taylor Kennedy, “Strategies to Reduce the Incidence of Skin Cancer in Cody, WY,” Cody; and Grace Nicholas, “Carpal Tunnel Release with Ultrasound Guidance (CTR-US): Intermediate-Term Results with MRI Correlation,” The McGinley Clinic in Casper.

Gillette -- Ariel Gjovig, “Improving Diabetes Nutrition Education in Sundance, WY,” Sundance.

Green River -- Holly Huber, “Effective Teaching Module for Training Residents and Fellows on Ultrasound Guided Fine Needle Aspirations of Thyroid Nodules,” Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.

Laramie -- Sierra Levene, “Impact of Age, Sex and Race on Velopharyngeal Anatomy within the First Two Years of Life,” UW College of Health Sciences, Laramie.

Moran -- Cade Budak, “COVID-19 Pandemic in Salmon, ID: Medical Humanities,” Salmon, Idaho.

Pinedale -- Luiza Bosch, “Vaccination Hesitancy: A Common Trend in Powell, Wyoming,” Powell.

Powell -- Blake Hopkin, “Improving Cancer Screening Education and Rates in Conrad, Mont. through Social Media,” Conrad, Mont.

Sheridan -- Maison Furley, “Best Practices to Manage Increasing Pediatric Mental Health Admission Acuity,” Sheridan.

Thermopolis -- Cody Abbott, “Isolation: Antagonist and Antidote in Rural Wyoming,” Thermopolis.

Wheatland -- Audrey Lucas, “Using Behavior Change Models to Help Healthcare Workers Discuss COVID-19 Vaccines with Patients to Increase Community Vaccination Numbers in Goshen County, WY,” Goshen County.

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