Health Sciences Research Day Draws Record Number of Students

Elements of future medical scientific breakthroughs made their debut Nov. 12 at the University of Missouri’s 2009 Health Sciences Research Day. More than 90 students – the most participants in the research day’s history – displayed their posters for evaluation by faculty judges from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the School of Medicine’s Acuff Gallery. A noon keynote address in Acuff Auditorium featured Robert Califf, MD, vice chancellor for clinical research, leader of the Translational Medicine Institute, and professor of cardiology at Duke University.

Held annually since the 1980s, Health Sciences Research Day provides a forum for MU medical, nursing and health professions students to showcase their research. Studies feature a wide range of health topics, such as autism, cancer, diabetes and exercise.

The Dorsett L. Spurgeon, MD, Distinguished Medical Research Award is also presented during Health Sciences Research Day. The annual award recognizes faculty scientists early in their careers. This year’s recipient is Stefan Sarafianos, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, who joined MU in 2006. Following the announcement of the award, Sarafianos delivered a keynote address highlighting his work developing antiretroviral compounds that target HIV, SARS and foot-and-mouth disease. Immediately following his address, students and faculty members were awarded for their presentations. (See below for list of award winners.)

“The Spurgeon Award allows the School of Medicine to highlight world-class research from our newest scientists as it follows a pathway from scientific labs to medical treatments for patients,” said Jamal Ibdah, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for research at the MU School of Medicine and director of the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.

Sarafianos and his international collaborators have discovered that the molecule EFdA can be used as a highly effective microbicide to prevent HIV transmission. EFdA is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, meaning it targets the main HIV enzyme responsible for viral replication. In laboratory tests, human cells treated with EFdA can still become infected with HIV, but the compound prevents the virus from replicating and spreading. Then, the immune system rids cells of the invader.

Sarafianos and his colleagues are in the process of patenting the chemical compound, which is up to 60,000 times more powerful than any other drug currently used for the treatment of HIV infection. Scientists hope the drugs can double as preventive agents in the form of vaginal gels and creams, empowering women to protect themselves when their partners refuse to wear condoms.

“Dr. Sarafianos’ work could make a tremendous difference in terms of both preventing the spread of HIV as well as in the treatment of the more than 33 million people living with the virus,” said Ibdah, who also serves as the medical school’s Raymond E. and Vaona H. Peck Chair in Cancer Research and director of gastroenterology. “We are extremely proud of the research powerhouse he is building with his expertise and mentorship here at MU.”

Robert Churchill, MD, the medical school’s Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean, presented the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Student Research to Brian Bostick. An MD-PhD student, Bostick studies Duchenne muscular dystrophy under the guidance of Dongsheng Duan, PhD, Margaret Proctor Mulligan Distinguished Professor in Medical Research in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and recipient of the 2009 Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity.

Health Sciences Research Day is sponsored by the MU School of Medicine, MU Sinclair School of Nursing, MU School of Health Professions and Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital.

Research Day Award Recipients

Category I Clinical (medical and nursing students, Conley Scholars and undergraduates)

  • 1st place- Rebekah Nevel, M2, sponsored by Rez Farid, MD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • 2nd place- Kathryn Watson, M1, sponsored by Gregory Della Rocca, MD, PhD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • 3rd place- Jason Showmaker, M4, sponsored by Robert Zitsch, MD, Department of Otolaryngology

Category I Basic

  • 1st place- David Phillips, M2, sponsored by Rajiv Mohan, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology
  • 2nd place- Kristen Cozad, M2, sponsored by Brenda Peculis, PhD, Department of Biochemistry
  • 3rd place- Daniel Bettis, M4, sponsored by Rajiv Mohan, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology

Category II Clinical (graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, residents)

  • 1st place- Cheryl Hill, PhD, postdoctoral fellow sponsored by Kristina Aldridge, PhD, Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences; Ye Duan, PhD, Department of Computer Science; Judith Miles, MD, PhD, Department of Child Health
  • 2nd place- Jean Krampe, graduate student, sponsored by Marilyn Rantz, PhD, RN, MU Sinclair School of Nursing; Marjorie Skubic, PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Richard Schamp, MD, Laura Dowell, PT; Carmen Abbott, PT, School of Health Professions Department of Physical Therapy
  • 3rd place- Spencer Eagan, resident, sponsored by Stephen Colbert, MD, Department of Surgery

Category II Basic

  • 1st place- Amy Schwindt and Amber Stratman, graduate students sponsored by George Davis, MD, PhD, Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology
  • 2nd place- Jonathan Tovey, MD, postdoctoral fellow sponsored by Rajiv Mohan, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology
  • 3rd place- Rebecca Burkhalter, graduate student sponsored by Sharon Stack, PhD, Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences