July 2012 Diary of an MSTAR Student
July 2012 Diary of an MSTAR Student

Brett Marinelli: Differentiating Heart Cells in the Lab

July 31, 2012

My MSTAR summer began with joining the Cardiovascular Research Center at Mount Sinai directed by Dr. Roger Hajjar. The group I work with focuses on the differentiation of human cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells, from both embryonic and induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells lines. Going in with little knowledge of either cell culturing techniques or the methods used to characterize cells, I anticipated both an exciting and challenging introduction to this area of bench-top medicine.

Now almost a month into my MSTAR research summer, I have experienced both the satisfactions and frustrations that come with the field of cell differentiation. A unique quality to cardiomyocyte differentiation is that if successful one can actually see the cells beating under the microscope. While further tests, such as PCR or Western Blots, can precisely identify mRNA and protein properties of differentiated cells, upon glimpsing that first beat of a cell, the culturalist instantly knows their protocol succeeded. Luckily, this happened with my first attempt at culturing cardiomyocytes. I felt elated and, foolishly, as if I must be a natural at differentiation. I was wrong. On my second plate I was searching my wells, waiting minutes, and observed not a single beat when I should have.

The ability to differentiate pluripotent stem cells into functional tissue, such as heart muscle (cardiomyoctes), holds promise to improve the health of aging patients. Life ending illnesses, like heart failure or neurodegenerative disease, may be treated clinically in new ways some day as researchers’ command of the differentiation improves. But as I learned trying to get a single heart cell to beat, it’ll take luck and patience.

Brett Marinelli
Mount Sinai School of Medicine



Amanda Berbert: Outside of the Laboratory

July 27, 2012

I am in a vascular research laboratory at the VA Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah for the summer.  I am looking at the blood pressure and blood flow responses in the peripheral vasculature during exercise in heart failure (HF) patients. Things are going well in lab, but in this entry I would like to talk about the exciting things that are going on outside of the laboratory. I have enjoyed recruiting patients in the hospital, attending geriatric lectures, and shadowing geriatricians.

First, as with any clinical research, there is patient recruitment. Our laboratory is lucky enough to have a patient coordinator that handles all of the patient scheduling and consent forms. I have become so grateful for her the past month! In order to see what she does though, I have spent a couple of days following her. One part of her job is visiting a cardiovascular clinic at the VA Hospital every Monday. We are in a VA building next to the hospital, so it is just a 10 minute walk. At the clinic, it was interesting to see how she summarized in layperson’s terms what we study in the lab. I also appreciated how many people agreed to participate in our clinical studies. The main things that limited recruiting people were criteria we have for our studies, such as being within a certain ejection fraction—which is a measure of how much blood the heart pumps each beat—and body weight.

In addition to spending time in the cardiovascular clinic with our patient coordinator, I also was able to learn more about geriatrics. I enjoyed a lecture that was given on assessing fall risk in older adults. I have also loved shadowing different geriatricians. That has been one of my favorite parts of the summer. I shadowed a couple doctors at the VA hospital and one at a rest home. At the VA, I loved hearing veterans talk about their war experiences. It was interesting to see how complex their lives had been, as well as how complex their medical problems often were. At the rest home, I was impressed by the relationship the geriatrician had with her patients. With one patient it was hard to glean any verbal information, but the doctor said she could tell a lot from the patient’s mannerisms and actions after knowing her for so long. All of these lecture and shadowing experiences have helped me to see the needs that exist in geriatric medicine for further research.

Amanda Berbert
University of Utah



Shawn Loder: Victories and Caution in the Lab

July 26, 2012

Three weeks into my project and finally some of the data came back clear. We found a protein interaction that had never been shown before and finally had a link to show that the regulatory mechanisms we’ve been exploring are real.

I had been with my lab for almost a year before starting work through the MSTAR program and this project is both an offshoot and culmination of much of that preliminary effort. When the image popped up on the screen of the machine we use to image chemiluminescence on western blots, it was a very satisfying feeling and I was proud to show those results to my PI. However, like many of the day to day victories in research, proof of anything requires checking, double checking, and then triple checking again for good measure. Within the week I had already set up a new set of experiments, a repeat of the previous set and two separate immunoprecipitations working backwards, to make absolutely sure that we’re not being deceived by some artifact of the process.

Sometimes the link between the results in the lab and tangible benefit to patients can seem unclear but when a result shows up that highlights the potential for a new avenue of treatment, there is a moment where things seem to come together. It’s nice to have moments like this early on in the experience to continue the momentum we had at the beginning. There will be a lot of work in the future and every little victory counts.

Shawn Loder
University of Michigan



Nerissa Duchin: Analyzing the Data on Adverse Drug Events

July 25, 2012

This is week five out of eight of my MSTAR research experience, and I am actively trying to move ahead with finishing data collection and analysis. Last week was quite busy, and I sure learned a lot about using Excel and Access. At times, learning new computer skills is frustrating, but I appreciate learning these new skills so that I can be more efficient at managing data in the future. Monday morning I met with my mentor, Dr. Jerry Gurwitz, and we talked about some preliminary data that I had organized into tables, and we talked about a timeline for the rest of the summer. I will spend this week finishing up data analysis, and that will give me the next couple of weeks to work on writing up my results. I will be presenting my project for a group of my peers (including the two other UMass MSTAR students) as well as at the weekly faculty and staff meeting here at the Meyers Primary Care Institute.

I have had many learning opportunities over these past few weeks. I was able to meet with a faculty member who was a member of the expert panel which compiled the 2012 Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults (on which my project is focused). Thursday I will be meeting with another geriatrician and principal investigator to discuss my project as well as her perspective on the clinical use of the Beers Criteria. I have also appreciated the fact that my mentor invites me to weekly research meetings for a couple of different projects. I enjoy listening in on these meetings because it gives me a chance to see how other research teams function to accomplish their goals. Additionally, there are various departmental seminars (the last one was on osteoporosis) that I am invited to attend to gain general geriatrics knowledge, which I find interesting. Later on this afternoon, one of the research assistants here is going to help me link some more data with my current data sheets; I really appreciate how helpful people have been throughout this experience.

Through working on my project (part of which involves reading about and classifying many medications), I am excited to see how much I have learned during my first year of medical school. Reading about how antipsychotics may cause syndrome of inappropriate ADH secretion and actually knowing what that means is intellectually exciting, and makes me look forward to learning more during my second year of medical school. I find that as I read about adverse drug events and their descriptions (written by clinical pharmacist investigators), I am feeling more and more comfortable reading about the history of present illness, physical exam findings, etc., and it is nice to have these examples of how one would go about presenting a case. Alright, it looks like it’s time to get back to looking at data!

Nerissa Duchin
University of Massachusetts Medical School



Anne Richardson Wright: Examining Shoulder and Neck Pain

July 19, 2012

I am currently starting my second week in the MSTAR program and I am truly impressed with how organized and motivated the MSTAR personnel is at the University of North Carolina. When I arrived last week I was immediately given a thorough orientation to the campus, the MSTAR program, my mentors, and my prospective study. Everyone here at UNC could not be nicer or more welcoming.

I am very excited to  begin my research. I will be studying the prevalence of neck and shoulder pain in the elderly population. I am fortunate because the Department of Rheumatology here at UNC has access to a large database that has been actively collecting data for over twenty years. This will allow me to do both a longitudinal and cross-sectional retrospective cohort study. This is a relevant and important study because while shoulder and neck pain are a common health problem in the elderly population, few papers have focused on this topic. Hopefully, my research will add to our current understanding of this medical problem and ultimately help primary care physicians properly identify and treat this population.

Personally, this study is going to be extremely beneficial to me for a number of reasons. One, I will acquire skills in analysis and interpretation of quantitative data. This process will begin today when I meet with our statistician to look at the data pertaining to our study. She is going to take me through a step-by-step process of how to interpret and analyze the data. Additionally, my mentors are going to provide me with a written plan for analyzing the data. These small details are crucial to a novice researcher (such as myself) because they ensure that I learn how to properly look at data.

In addition to learning how to interpret and quantify the data I am also going to acquire skills in study design, research writing, and presentation. I am hoping to finish an abstract before the end of my program. I am also hoping to submit this abstract to the 2013 American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Annual Meeting. If accepted, I will have the opportunity to present a poster pertaining to my analysis of the data. This would be an amazing opportunity for a second year medical student.

Aside from beginning my research my mentors have scheduled for me to shadow in the UNC geriatric and rheumatology clinics. Within the first week I was in the rheumatology clinic shadowing my mentor and a current 3rd year internal medicine resident. It was an incredibly valuable experience, as I have had no exposure to this specialty. It was really neat to see the different patients and medical issues that presented to the clinic. I also witnessed first hand how the use of labs, history taking, and physical examination are used to make a diagnosis. The most important lesson I took away was, "Never treat labs, treat the patient". This became clear when a young patient presented to the clinic with signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, when the labs were drawn the numbers strongly supported a diagnosis of lupus even though the patient did not present with any of the classic signs and symptoms of lupus. Although this was an intriguing finding and cause for watching the patient’s progression closely, it was not a justification for starting immunosuppressants.

All in all, I have only been in the MSTAR program for one and a half weeks but I have already been given irreplaceable experiences in research and in the clinic. I am looking forward to the next seven weeks and all of the experiences I am sure to have!

Anne Richardson Wright
University of Hawaii


Kerry Bertke: Preventive Medicine and Community-based Intervention

July 18, 2012

When I thought about my MSTAR summer, I was looking forward to learning more about preventive medicine. I wanted to know more about how clinicians could take a more active role in preventing chronic disease and how individuals can be motivated to change behaviors that contribute to these diseases, such as diet and exercise. Thus far, my MSTAR experience has revealed the challenges of implementing community-based interventions, but also how important this effort can be for willing participants and communities.

I am working with researchers at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) in Chapel Hill, NC. One of their current large-scale efforts is a five-year, multi-phase community intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Lenoir County, NC. This county is part of the stroke belt in the southern United States and a poor area in eastern North Carolina. The focus of my project for the summer is using previously collected baseline data to evaluate the dietary choices of participants already enrolled in the Heart Healthy Lenoir study. I hope to describe dietary patterns that explain the high CVD prevalence, also investigating how age and various demographic characteristics play a role in dietary choices. Other factors investigated by the researchers through questionnaires include environmental barriers to physical activity and the impact of health literacy on health behaviors.

I feel fortunate to be in a place that truly believes in the importance of preventive medicine. I have been paired with experienced researchers that have years of experience in behavioral interventions at the community level to assist in my understanding of the project and the difficulties and rewards that exist with this type of research. I spent much of the first week understanding the project, taking part in conference calls, and reading related journal articles. The culmination of my second full week at the center was the opportunity to travel to the field site, meet the team, and take part in a group weight loss intervention session in Kinston, NC. The participants were very open about how difficult making health choices and finding time to exercise can be, but also motivated to change. They were excited about the program and seemed energized by each other’s successes.

I hope to use their motivation as well as what I discover about dietary choices to further emphasize and advocate for the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and to encourage physicians to speak with their patients about this important aspect of health.

Kerry Bertke
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine



Sonia Bhandari: Promoting Health Literacy

July 16, 2012

As a former undergraduate at UNC, I knew that returning to Chapel Hill for the MSTAR program would be comforting, but I had never thought that the team I would be working with this summer would be so welcoming and supportive. Today marks the end of my third week here and learning about health literacy, the focus of my project, has been breathtaking. I knew little about the subject before starting the project, and my literature review of health literacy quickly taught me that the nearly 48% of our nation is affected by low health literacy, which severely impacts the way health care is delivered to them. Health literacy is defined as the sets of skills that empowers patients and allows them to effectively function in the health care environment while understanding basic health information, services, and their individual medical needs. My PI, Dr. Leigh Callahan, and her team at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center have developed toolkits that contain methods that physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and the administrative staff can use to improve patient satisfaction in the clinical setting. The tools focus on improving spoken communication, written communication, self-management & empowerment, and supportive systems. The tools are accompanied by educational resources, links to videos, and methods to implement the tools.

Our project entails testing quick start guides that aim to promote health literacy, which are adapted from the larger toolkits, in three of the geriatric practices in the community. We want to see whether the short, six-page manuals were useful for the clinicians and staff members in altering and improving the ways that patients with low health literacy levels are cared for. Next week the team and I will be attending the weekly Division of Geriatric Medicine meeting to present our project and pass out the quick start guides to the clinicians and staff members there. They will be given a month to independently review the guides, and then we’ll return after that time to see how effective the guides were in improving interactions, promoting communication, and increasing understanding with patients of all health literacy levels.

During my time here I have also gotten the opportunity to shadow a geriatrician in the Cedars retirement home community clinic. The experience had a large impact because he was implementing many of the tools to promote health literacy with the patients that he saw, such as the teach-back method and the brown bag medication review. Seeing the same cases in the clinic that we study about in the classroom is always a humbling experience for me. Thus, it was very interesting to meet one of his patients with secondary parkinsonism, which had been caused by a recent stroke that obstructed blood flow to the substantia nigra in his brain. But the human element of the situation came to the forefront when the patient began discussing his sudden symptoms, the sadness he experienced about recently losing his son, and the pain he felt every time he was given Botox injections in his knuckles, fingers, and arms. The physician tried to comfort the patient’s anxiety by saying that there were observable improvements in his health, but the patient saw no such improvements and kept asking the physician over and over again what he could visibly notice that the patient himself could not feel. The physician was very compassionate and he empathetically explained to the patient information concerning his symptoms and options that he had to control his pain. I think it’s vital for us as medical students to see such emotions between physicians and patients early on so that we understand ways to connect with our patients throughout our careers. I feel privileged to be given a chance to shadow such a caring, dedicated physician. Overall I’ve truly enjoyed my time at UNC thus far and look forward to the rest of the summer.

Sonia Bhandari
University of South Carolina School of Medicine



David Lee: No Clear Cut Definition for Frailty

July 12, 2012

Over the past two weeks, I have read articles on how to define “frailty” and what criteria researchers use to classify patients as frail.  I have learned that frailty is complex and defined differently based upon the study. One author thinks of frailty as a loss of physiological reserves and uses a five criteria checklist, which includes grip strength, walk time, weight loss, physical activity level, and self-reported exhaustion, whereas another defines the term as a loss of deficits and uses a 70 item index.  Having such a difference in classifying people as frail shows how little we actually know about this syndrome.  I have learned that defining terms and understanding criteria for inclusion is a common theme throughout clinical research.    

During my first week at the C.A.R.E. clinic, I learned how to use online resources to find articles pertaining to frailty.  My PI told me that only a few of our lab members study this topic and that I should strive to become a “frailty expert.”  The first week was very repetitive; however, after seeing that a researcher I was reading about was actually featured in a NY Times article and knowing that frailty is relevant and of interest to others, made me more motivated to work harder.

After about a week, I presented my findings about frailty and the criteria we should use for our research to my PI and had a discussion about which criteria to include in the study.  My PI sat down with me and drew an arrow diagram to clarify my question and create a research plan for the summer.  The first step we decided was that I should work towards learning the statistical program, SAS, so that we can further analyze our data and have a better understanding of my project.  I am currently in the process of getting the program for my computer and the lab computers.

I started going into the clinic to shadow my geriatrician mentor this week.  It was a great experience and further supported my passion to pursue geriatrics.  I love the fact that every patient who saw my mentor had a different health condition and that it was a challenge to juggle the medication list, the various chronic conditions, and the acute condition of the patient.  It was both exciting to see my mentor interact with the patient and for me to enter the room beforehand and take a history from the patient.  I very much enjoyed my experience in clinic and look forward to clinic next week.

Overall, these past two weeks have been a great learning experience.  Being in lab and shadowing my mentor has definitely solidified my interest in geriatrics!  I can’t wait for the next couple of weeks.

David Lee
University of California, Irvine School of Medicine



Susanna O'Kula: Patient Recruitment at the Bronx VA

July 11, 2012

The list didn’t look promising. On this sweltering Friday afternoon, only three or four patients on the floors were eligible for the study, compared to the ten or twelve we can speak to on Mondays after the weekend’s intake. The last week had been slow—only two patients enrolled—and we weren’t exactly sure why. Perhaps it was the season (fewer admissions in the summer) or perhaps it was the (unfounded) belief of many veterans that they could lose their VA benefits if they admitted to using non-VA providers. The social worker, research assistant, and I nevertheless arrived on one of the upper floors and found the first patient’s room. When the social worker emerged from Mr. C’s room to say that yes, we could approach him, I was glad we could add another patient to the study, but when she said he really didn’t speak much English, I was ecstatic—he was exactly the sort of patient I wanted to reach.

The study assesses the impact that a computerized regional health information organization (RHIO) has on veterans’ medical reconciliation and care transitions outcomes. Once enrolled, patients assigned to the intervention group are visited by a pharmacist who compares current and previous medications using VA and RHIO records to prevent redundancies and errors (as opposed to the control group, whose medical reconciliation only utilizes their VA records). A month later I call patients to ask a series of follow-up questions about adverse symptoms, like dizziness, headaches, GI difficulties, and incontinence, related to their medications.

I’ve added items to the study’s baseline questionnaire that inquire about language preference, the language mostly spoken at home, and the language(s) veterans speak with both VA and non-VA providers because I’m interested in any correlation between lack of English fluency and poor care transitions outcomes, such as adverse drug events, negative responses to the Care Transitions Measure, or even readmissions. Though many patients identify as Hispanic, they often tell me their primary language is English or that even if they speak Spanish at home, English is the language in which they’re most comfortable communicating. Not so today! When I asked Mr. C which language he preferred for our conversation, “español” was his emphatic choice. It became clear, in fact, that I would need to translate the rest of the baseline questions (besides those relating to language) into Spanish, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to respond.

During my half hour with him, I learned that Mr. C’s VA provider doesn’t speak Spanish during visits and that he would actually prefer a Spanish-speaking provider. Gauging by his slight eyebrow raise in response to my question, I’m not sure anyone had ever asked him his preference before. He uses a visiting nurse service when at home and appreciates that his nurse speaks Spanish with him “todo el tiempo” (all the time). Mr. C’s consent was followed by Mr. G’s, a veteran in his nineties who is fluent in English, knew lots of French while in Europe during World War II, and speaks not a word of Spanish. I don’t know to which group either man will be assigned, and I don’t know the significance of English or Spanish fluency on their particular care transitions outcomes (at least not yet!), but I was glad we’d found them both. We finished the week on a high note—two patients in an afternoon on a day when we’d thought we would find none.

Though the study will continue long after my MSTAR summer is officially over, I look forward to further involvement with the project during the rest of my medical school training. I’m excited to see how we as future clinicians can adapt healthcare technologies to an ever-changing U.S. veteran population.

Susanna O'Kula
Mount Sinai School of Medicine



Jerome Atputhasingam: Why We Research at the Memory and Aging Center

July 10, 2012

When I entered the examination room at the UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center (MAC), I was completely unaware of who I would meet inside. Having just started my MSTAR project, I was only beginning to get a grasp of my environment and barely had a clue about the types of patients seen at MAC. On this particular day, I was greeted by an older aged woman and her husband. As I began to introduce myself, I realized that the woman struggled to introduce herself back to me. She had a hard time speaking words, much less complete sentences.

Since the attending was running a bit late, I was the only person in the examination room besides the couple. I was not sure what to talk about or even if I should talk. Luckily, the husband was good at small talk and went on about the lovely weather in San Francisco. Finally, the attending entered the room and I breathed a sigh of relief.

The complete patient examination must have taken two hours to complete, and yet time flew faster than usual for me. Since the attending did not tell me beforehand about the diagnosis, I tried in the beginning of the interview to figure out what the woman’s disease might be. In addition to speech, she had problems with balance, eye movements, and swallowing. I came up with a short differential in my head before realizing that I had not been present with the patient. I had let my head wander into my neurology lectures and was missing what the patient was actually telling us.

So for the rest of the interview, I decided to take off my medical hat and simply listen. And in the time that I listened, I witnessed the extraordinary love that was shared between the couple. The husband, although visibly sad about the deteriorating state of his wife, treated her as his equivalent. Though she could not complete many of the tasks that able-bodied people are able to do, he allowed her to be her own advocate. For me, the fact that he didn’t baby her was a remarkable sight. I could see this type of love not only fostered courage in his wife but also nurtured the transition of their love story into a new era of communication.

There were several moments throughout the interview where the wife burst into uncontrollable laughter, yet her eyes remained deeply saddened. She explained to us that when she felt sad, she would laugh out loud and she could do nothing about it. It made me wonder what it would feel like to be inside a body which acted according to its own will. What would such separation of mind and body cause a human being?

All throughout the interview, I couldn’t help but feel deeply connected to the humanness of this woman’s struggle. Though the disease was something completely foreign to me, I felt the gravity of the human moments we shared. At the end of the interview, the attending asked her if she had any questions. She turned her neck to look at her husband and then turned back to look at the doctor. Slowly, she said “It’s only going to get worse isn’t it?”

I felt the already the silent room become more silent. The attending, as much as he hated what was about to come out of his mouth, mustered up the courage and said “Yes, and unfortunately we don’t have anything we can do to make it better.”

It was a moment I will never forget. In that moment, I understood why so many people around the world work tireless hours researching, trying their best to find something, anything that would elucidate an aspect of the human body. It is because when another patient asks the same question as this woman, we can say “We can stop it from getting worse” or even better “We can help you recover fully.” For me, that is the magic of research.

Jerome Atputhasingam
University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine


Elizabeth Pedowitz: Shadowing & Surveying Visiting Doctors

July 9, 2012

I am officially a few weeks into my MSTAR project. I am working with the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors (MSVD) program that provides care to homebound, generally elderly, patients within Manhattan. I had experience with MSVD this past year as part of my Longitudinal Clinical Experience (LCE). The LCE involves following a doctor and his or her patient for two years while learning about the patient’s chronic illnesses, life, and how the two intersect. My LCE patient is in her late 80s and suffers from a complexity of issues including severe scoliosis, breast cancer, advancing dementia, and a collapsed lung. She is homebound with an oxygen tank, which leaves this very creative woman feeling extremely stifled. I loved my experiences with the MSVD and my patient and knew that MSTAR would be a perfect way to do more research in the department.

My project this summer is examining how much time the physicians in MSVD spend providing care outside of home visits. There is some known literature investigating this matter for primary care physicians, but there is a need to expand this research to the home visit population that my research mentor, Dr. DeCherrie, and I believe requires more care coordination. I am also comparing the two models of care that the MSVD uses to observe any potential differences in the amount of time the physicians from each spend on providing care outside of the home visits.

So far I have been working on creating a form that the physicians can fill out for every interaction/event they have outside of home visits that is related to their patients’ care. It’s interesting how much it has changed over the last month while it was being piloted. The form asks for the patient’s name/DOB so we can look at certain patient characteristics like dementia status, the nature of the interaction/event, whether it could go towards possible reimbursement (CPO possible), and the outcome of the interaction/event by circling best responses in a table I have created. Most of these interactions/events are not going to be CPO possible and so they are not reimbursed.

The physicians have been split into different weeks and I have been working on having them sign the consent forms. Monday, 7/9, will be the first day they use the forms. I’m really hoping everything goes well and that the forms are easy to use and not too cumbersome. I don’t like the idea of making the physicians do more work, but hopefully the findings of my research will help them in the long run. Everyone so far has been really great about helping me pilot the forms and all of the physicians (there are thirteen in the MSVD) have agreed to participate in my project.

I’ve now had two opportunities to shadow doctors. This morning I went with the Visiting Doctors to see two homebound patients. One had ALS and could not speak; he had to use an iPad program to type what he wanted to say and then a robotic voice would say it. He had fallen and needed to have two stitches taken out, which I was able to help with. The other patient was a 90-year-old woman who had fallen and was having knee pain. She can’t walk and her daughters are extremely concerned. The other day I shadowed a fellow in the Geriatrics department. That was a great experience as well because I was able to initially take in the patients and do the history (one in Spanish) and then present to the fellow before she saw them. So far I am having a great time in MSTAR and learning a ton!

Elizabeth Pedowitz
Mount Sinai School of Medicine


John Bridges: An Exciting Time for Geriatrics Research

July 5, 2012

This week marks the completion of my first month of summer research with the MSTAR program.  I am impressed by the amount that I have learned in the past month, but even more impressive is the amount I have left to learn about how to conduct sound research.  Research is difficult, and it requires concentration and dedication. I have found it interesting how much is yet to be explored in the field of geriatrics. It is an exciting time to be researching in this field, and I have found my work to be intellectually rewarding thus far.

I spend most of my time coding programming for data analysis as I am working with pre-existing datasets instead of conducting original research.  It seems as though I better understand my research question and the data I am working with more and more every day. Another thing that has surprised me is the amount of interaction and support I receive from the other researchers in my department. I had imagined research would very much be an individual enterprise, but I am coming to understand how much researchers depend on one another to help each other out along the way as they find solutions to complex problems in understanding and analyzing data in the pursuit of understandable and applicable results.

I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with many clinical geriatricians and see how they use research-based methods and practices in their everyday interactions with patients. This has helped to drive home the importance of my work, to be able to see that research has a definite impact in the lives of geriatric patients.

I’m excited about the opportunities that this research is presenting to me. The topics that I am studying are quite interesting, and I’m hoping that I will be able to continue this research through end of the summer and beyond into the remainder of my medical school career.  I’m hoping to be able to keep up with my research throughout the second year and use some of the elective time available during my third and fourth year to continue with the projects on which I am currently working.

John Bridges
University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine