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Research Update: 2018 Vanderbilt-Meharry Summer Research Program in Pediatrics
August 27, 2018

Research Update: 2018 Vanderbilt Meharry Summer Research Program in Pediatrics
Last year, the Department of Pediatrics’ leaders created the Vanderbilt-Meharry Medical Student Summer Internship, an eight-week intensive research program designed to foster interests in pediatrics in general and the Vanderbilt pediatric residency program specifically. Two students from Meharry Medical College, Brittany Landry and Jodi-Anne Stewart, participated in the program last year. This summer, Meharry students Jessica Do and Nicole Leuthold were selected to participate, as well as one student from Wake Forest School of Medicine, Oluchi Nwoke. In addition to their eight-week research experience with their primary mentor, under the supervision of John Phillips, Professor of Pediatrics, they also participated in weekly Underdiagnosed Disease patient sessions as part of the Underdiagnosed Disease NIH-sponsored Network.

Jessica Do worked with Debra Friedman, M.D., M.S., in the VUMC Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology-Oncology. During her time with Dr. Friedman, Jessica focused on finishing an in-house retinoblastoma survivorship study with an emphasis on analyzing long-term adverse sequelae related to retinoblastoma therapies. She was also involved in establishing a multi-center study based on the Vanderbilt data, which investigates the long-term outcomes of retinoblastoma survivors and the roles of genetics on retinoblastoma phenotypes. She worked with Dr. Friedman; Anthony Daniels, M.D., M.Sc., from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences; and clinical coordinator Casey Rodweller, M.S., in developing this research. Jessica plans to present her work at her current medical school, Meharry Medical College, in March 2019.

Nicole Leuthold worked under the mentorship of Eric Austin, M.D., MSCI, a pediatric pulmonologist and physician-scientist, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center specializing in patient-oriented research. Matthew Kielt, M.D., senior neonatal-perinatal medicine fellow, co-mentored her with Dr. Austin. Her project used Vanderbilt’s Synthetic Derivative, a multi-source database of de-identified clinical and demographic data, and BioVU, a bank of de-identified DNA samples. Her work focused on defining abnormal cardiopulmonary phenotypes associated with TBX4 and other genetic variants associated with pulmonary hypertension. Nicole’s work also explored known and novel TBX4-associated phenotypes across a wide spectrum of patients seen at VUMC over more than a decade. She plans to present a poster of her work in the spring at Meharry Medical College, where she currently attends medical school.

Oluchi Nwoke, a Wake Forest medical student, worked in the Vanderbilt Adult Sickle Cell Clinic under the mentorship of Deva Sharma, M.D., a third-year adult hematology oncology fellow; and co-mentor Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH. As part of a larger initiative to understand the natural history of reproductive challenges in men with sickle cell disease, she assessed the feasibility and usability of questionnaires exploring these challenges as a tool for data collection. Oluchi also wrote a review article on the same topic and plans to get a first author manuscript publication.

Brittany Landry worked last summer under the mentorship of Dr. Zachary Warren, Ph.D., and Dr. Amy Weilauf, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt's Treatment and Research institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her project, part of a larger initiative, was focused on testing a novel way for physician extenders to provide diagnostic assessments for ASD in primary care settings. Since the completion of her project, Brittany has presented the results of this project at Pediatric conferences, including the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting and the Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy Health Disparities conference. She also plans to present at the upcoming Pediatric Medical Student Research Forum hosted by the Florida chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics. Brittany is a third-year medical student at Meharry Medical College.

Jodi-Anne Stewart worked in the Vanderbilt Meharry Sickle Cell Disease Center of Excellence last summer and focused on understanding the relationship between low body mass index (BMI) and lung function patterns in children with sickle disease. She is currently doing a one-year clinical research internship to pursue her project further. She, along with her mentor, Michael DeBaun, M.D., M.P.H., was granted the Doris Duke Clinical Research Mentorship Award in spring 2018. She also presented an oral abstract at the 59th Annual ASH Meeting where she discussed the association between low baseline BMI and the longitudinal decline in forced expiratory volume predicted in one second (FEV1% percent) in children with sickle cell anemia. Jodi-Anne is a medical student at Meharry Medical College.

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