SMHS Highlights Scholarship at Annual Medical Student Research Day

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The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) highlighted the breadth of research and scholarly activities across the full spectrum of the GW academic medical community during the 2024 GW SMHS Research Showcase, April 25. The annual event featured more than 250 submissions from MD program students, medical residents, students in health sciences programs, and PhD candidates, offering abstract presentations, poster sessions, and selected oral presentations on a range of disciplines, such as clinical and translational science, clinical public health, and medical education-related research.

This year’s event featured a plenary address by Omaida C. Velazquez, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, discussing “Gene-Modified MSCs and Direct Gene Therapy as Novel Strategies for Vascular Regeneration and Wound Healing.”

Velazquez is the trailblazing investigator behind dozens of thriving clinical care lines and education programs. During her more than 15 years at Miami, she has served as teacher and mentor for thousands of medical, surgical, and research trainees.

Condensing decades of research into her address, Velazquez discussed her work using direct cell therapy and gene-modifying cells for promoting wound healing, as well as her motivations to pursue discovery science. She described the research process and the various tools developed to address wound healing, and what it takes for a researcher to advance a project from concept to the clinic establishing proof of concept, win grants, and attract biotech partners.

“Everything that we look at, creates inspiration for us as doctors, as scientists, physicians-scientists, surgeons-scientists like me,” Velazquez told the audience. It is really in the unsolved problems that we derive our, our push, our movement forward, our inspiration, and it’s where the beauty and magic of science, research, discovery, and innovation can thrive.”

Following the keynote address, the award winners and abstracts and poster award recipients were announced.

Khashayar “Shayar” Mozaffari, MD ’24, received the 2024 Doris DeFord Speck, BA ’41, and George Speck, MD ’41, Endowed Prize for outstanding accomplishments in medical student research.

“Shayar has a truly exceptional record of research accomplishment throughout his years at medical school,” said David Leitenberg MD, PhD, associate professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at SMHS, and medical director of flow cytometry and immunology at Children’s National Hospital. “Shayar’s research has included several comprehensive database analyses of factors that affect neurosurgical outcomes, as well as more basic studies related to targeting angiogenesis for the treatment of glioblastoma.”

Mozaffari, has 10 first author peer-reviewed manuscripts, 17 co-authorships, with several other manuscripts under review, all predominantly related to neurosurgery and neuro-oncology. He also has been awarded nationally competitive research fellowships from the American Brain Tumor Association as well as the American Academy of Neurology, received the Alpert Medical Scholarship and Paul Kravitz Scholarship, and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. 

MD program student Rachel Bernardo received the 2024 Donald H. Glew Prize for her abstract and poster titled, “High Accuracy of Artificial Intelligence versus Human Assessment for Coronary Artery Disease by AI-Quantitative Computed Tomography (AI-QCT).

The prize, established by William B. Glew, MD ’53, in honor of his brother, Donald H. Glew, MD ’48, is presented each year to the medical student with the best abstract and poster presentation at Medical Student Research Day. Andrew Choi, MD ’08, BA ’03, co-director, Cardiac CT and MRI, associate professor of medicine, GW SMHS, served as Boyd’s mentor on the project.

This year’s William Beaumont Research Awards went to Vincent Xu, Sarah Cho, and Kathleen Webber. The annual awards are given for outstanding research accomplishments from work submitted for publication in Fusion, the student-run research magazine at GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The recipients of the 2023-24 William Beaumont Research Awards are:

Vincent Xu, MSII
“Efficacy of Cytoreductive Cystectomy in Metastatic Urothelial Bladder Cancer Based on Site of Metastasis” 
Mentor:  Michael Whalen; Department of Urology, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Sarah Cho, MSII
“Associations between abnormal glucose regulation in pregnancy and offspring adiposity, insulin resistance, and adipokine markers during childhood and adolescence” 
Mentor:  Marie-France Hivert, Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Life Course, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute

Kathleen Webber, MSIII
“MRI Changes in the Cochlea as a Predictor of Clinically Significant Hearing Loss in Children Receiving Ototoxic Chemotherapy for Treatment of Brain Tumors” 
Mentor: Shweta Bansil; Department of Oncology, Children’s National Hospital

The abstracts and poster presentations for the research showcase were judged by an independent panel of faculty reviewers. Outstanding submissions were selected from across the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences academic medical enterprise: medical school students, medical residents, PhD candidates in Integrated Biomedical Sciences, and students in Health Sciences, including biomedical laboratory sciences; clinical research and leadership; health, human function, and rehab sciences; and physician assistant studies. 

Visit the SMHS research website to see the full list of abstracts and poster award recipients.

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