2018

Ryan Christ – Class of 2021
Durham, United Kingdom

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Ira Hall
Project: Gene Hunting in the UK

Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) seek to identify genes that underlie human disease by collecting DNA from many participants and looking for mutations in their DNA that predict their disease outcomes. The statistical methods used GWASs typically struggle to identify genes when there are several mutations in a gene that are modifying the disease outcome or when the study participants have mixed ancestry. These two limitations are partly why GWASs have had limited success in addressing health disparities in the developing world. For example, it is well known from epidemiology that O-blood type is protective against malaria. Due to the severe death toll that malaria has inflicted upon humans over the past ten thousand years, O-blood type has evolved independently in humans several times, each time due to a different mutation in ABO, the gene that confers A, B, or O blood type. However, due to this diversity of mutations, standard GWAS methods struggle to recover the signal at ABO. This summer, we continued the development of a statistical method that is designed to capture these mixed signals.

Jason Morris – Class of 2021
Blantyre, Malawi

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Allan Doctor
Project: Resource Utilization in Pediatric Critical Care 

I evaluated the resource utilization and patient flow in the high dependency unit of the pediatric special care ward to provide information about the way resources are currently being used in order to identify areas for potential improvement in the development of new interventions and quality improvement projects.

Priyanka Parameswaran – Class of 2021
Pujehun & Freetown, Sierra Leone
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary
Project: Project Peanut Butter

PPB aims to reduce malnutrition, and the project I was working on looked at maternal malnutrition and in-utero stunting. I went to clinic every morning, where we collected data from pregnant mothers and newborn babies, and spent the afternoon doing data entry and prepping for clinic. I loved having the opportunity to live in and work in Sierra Leone, and to learn what global health work is like on the ground.

Tamara Sanchez Ortiz – Class of 2021
Paris, France
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Carolyn Sargent
Project: Centre Fran¢ois Minkowska

Centre Fran¢ois Minkowska’s mission is threefold: clinical (provides basic psychological and psychiatric) care, research, and education (provides training for healthcare professionals on clinical cultural competency and a range of other topics, and trains healthcare interns).

Carrie Sibbald – Class of 2021
Quito, Ecuador
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Lora Iannotti
Project: Maternal Nutrition Practices and Fetal Development in Ecuador

I helped run a pilot project looking at maternal nutrition practices in Ecuador and their effect on obstetric fetal measurements to gain insight into the causes for stunting in the region and possibilities for future interventions. I gained a lot of communication and organizational skills, since I was working with an Ecuadorian doctor to coordinate multiple health centers to participate in the study and planning how the project would be run. I was given the opportunity to learn a lot of obstetric ultrasound during the week that a radiologist and sonographer came down to collect data with me, and also developed interviewing skills interviewing providers.

Tiffany Wu – Class of 2021
Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, China
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Judith Lieu
Project: A Summer with the Yi People in Liangshan, China

I spent one month in the Infectious Diseases Department at Zhaojue County Hospital and another month in the Pediatrics Department at Meigu County Hospital. Zhaojue and Meigu are two counties in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, mostly populated by an ethnic minority called the Yi people. On a typical morning, I would participate in rounds through the inpatient wards. In Zhaojue I assisted with the Treatment Adherence Training program, which aims to give patients a better understanding of HIV and improve ARV treatment adherence. In Meigu I assisted with the Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening initiative, which aims to use to pulse oximetry measurements to screen neonates for select congenital heart diseases. I also assisted with a nutrition class for mothers, an initiative to teach local Yi women about supplemental feeding and diet diversification.

2017

Curtis Austin – Class of 2020
Bangkok, Thailand

Washington University Mentor: Dr. David Clifford

I spent almost all of my time at the SEARCH (SouthEast Asia Research Collaboration on HIV) division of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre. It is a research clinic that captures an acutely HIV-infected cohort of mostly MSM and transgender women. I spent some time shadowing the local physicians, but mostly assisted in their projects including monitoring ongoing side effects of medication and auditing syphilis data. I learned about the operations of a major research clinic, and how medicine is approached and utilized in a foreign culture. The particular aspects of HIV medicine including sexual stigma, mental health, and substance abuse were also explored.

Kate Douglas – Class of 2020
Pastocalle, Ecuador

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Lora Iannotti

I worked in rural Ecuador on a follow-up to a randomized controlled trial performed two years ago. The initial study tested the impact on growth of early introduction of eggs in 6-9 month-old infants. We returned to visit the same children (now 2 1/2 – 3 years old) to assess the long-term impacts of this intervention on their growth and development. The work consisted of home visits to the children, and we measured weight, height, head circumference, dietary information, and SES, among other factors. In addition, we piloted the use of portable ultrasound (I as the student performed this and took the images, which were sent to a radiologist in the US for analysis) to analyze bone age and kidney structure. I also worked on data entry and early analysis. All was conducted in Spanish.

Jimmy He – Class of 2020
Pujehun District, Sierra Leone

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary

Project Peanut Butter (PPB) is a non-profit organization that produces ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) in Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. As a volunteer, I traveled to local clinics to screen and treat malnourished children and pregnant women. I worked with the clinic nurses to measure the height, weight, and mid-upper arm circumference of children and women attending clinic to determine if the child or woman is malnourished and able to be enrolled in one of the studies. For the summer research component, I analyzed demographics and food insecurity levels of our initial cohort of women in our study.

Sarah Mayer – Class of 2020
Cali, Colombia

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Ana Maria Arbelaez

A typical study day was from about 7am-3pm at the hospital guiding children and mothers through the study procedures like blood draws, cognitive exams, and MRIs. These occurred 1-2x/week. Other days (2-3x/week) consisted of shadowing either at the Universidad del Valle Hospital (large public teaching hospital) or a community hospital in Ob/Gyn. The remaining days were for organizing, translating, and uploading data to RedCap or helping with data analysis.

Tyler Moon – Class of 2020
Oxford, United Kingdom

I was performing research for a project that develops a new therapy for intervertebral disc replacement. I developed a new testing protocol for the disc comparisons between healthy, degenerated, and treated ex vivo bovine discs. I also had the opportunity to shadow a surgeon at Oxford.

Kaylha Munn – Class of 2020
Blantyre, Malawi

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary

As part of the Peanut Butter Project, I went to clinic everyday at 5 am and screened children for malnutrition by measuring mid-upper arm circumference and weight and also checked for pitting edema to determine if kwashiorkor is present. Additionally, I helped with any ongoing research projects.

2016

Rina Amatya – Class of 2019
Singapore

I did a basic science project under the mentorship of Professor Linfa Wang at the Duke-National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS) academic medical center. Briefly, his lab studies various aspects of bat biology and one of his main focuses is to understand how bats control inflammation. My project focused on how a bat protein affects gene transcription (and we want to maintain patentability so I can’t really go into specifics). I worked with a truly great and welcoming group of people. I was in lab 5 – 7 days in a typical week. I learned several new flow cytometry-based techniques. One of the coolest aspects for me was experiencing science from the ground floor: bat studies are so new and rare that there are few commercial reagents and a paucity of information that we take for granted when we study other animals (e.g. genomic information). This made my research difficult at times, but it also gave me some perspective on how to practically push new research in an understudied area.

I also shadowed an infectious disease physician in her outpatient clinic, where I got to see the differences between how medicine is practiced in Singapore vs. the US. I was also able to talk to students from Singapore and Australia to discuss how our medical trainings differed. Finally, I got to explore Singapore as well as visit some other places in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong).

Aristides Diamant – Class of 2019
Heidelberg, Germany

I used single particle cryo-electron microscopy (a rapidly developing structural biology technique) to solve the structure of various norovirus strains as well as a structure of one strain bound to a nanobody. One aim of the project was to characterize differences and similarities in the viral capsid between different strains in order to identify highly conserved features that may be useful in developing therapeutics and/or diagnostics. Another aim was to see if the binding of a nanobody to the capsid induced any conformational changes.

On a personal level, this also served as an opportunity for me to hone my skills in structural biology. Cryo-EM has been revolutionizing the field of structural biology over the last several years and it will be extremely important for me to be proficient in this technique if I hope to continue this type of research after medical school. Over the summer, I was taught how to use a cutting-edge microscope by an expert in the field, which is something we do not yet have access to here at WashU.

Tasha Evanoff – Class of 2019
Blantyre, Malawi

Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary

Project Peanut Butter (PPB) is an organization that aims to eradicate malnutrition in children in Southern Malawi. PPB serves 21 health clinics in Southern Malawi on a 2-week rotation, treating children for moderate acute and severe acute malnutrition. Each morning, we would wake up at 4:30am and travel to one of the health clinics with the Malawian nurses and drivers. We would take anthropometric measurements of up to 250 infants and children under the age of 5 each day, and based on their measurements enroll them as moderately malnourished, acutely malnourished, or “healthy.” The clinic provided counseling and nutritional supplements for the children, who returned every two weeks until they were healthy or finished the course of treatment. Working with PPB this summer was in incredibly eye opening and educational experience, and has further motivated my passions to be a physician.

Jackie Kading – Class of 2019
Mukono District, Uganda

The mission of Omni Med is to increase healthcare in rural Uganda through providing training for the local Village Heath Teams (VHTs) and implementing public health interventions, such as protected water sources, ventilated cookstoves, and insecticide treated nets, in the communities. A typical day would consist of mornings at the house preparing for trainings, meeting with staff members, or catching up on reading materials when the work load was lighter. After a delicious Ugandan lunch prepared by Prossy, the woman who took care of the house, we would go out into the community to make home visits, conduct VHT trainings, or participate in construction projects.

In addition to working on the VHT trainings and public health construction projects, I focused my attention on preparations for a tablet trial that will take place in the fall. Omni Med will be incorporating low-cost, Android tablets with pre-loaded educational videos into the education process of the VHTs as a means for them to learn independently outside of the traditional lecture-based training. The object of the trial will be to demonstrate the improved learning ability, retention, and clinical skills of the VHTs when trained by a one-week use of tablets with pre-loaded videos compared with the traditional, one-time lecture-based module.

This summer, I worked with a Ugandan doctor to film four videos on pneumonia recognition, diagnosis, treatment/referral, and prevention in the local language, Luganda, that were loaded onto the tablets to be used for the trial. I administered a one-week pilot trial with 10 community health workers (CHWs) who took a pre-test, used the tablets for one week, and took a post-test as well as qualitative survey about their experience learning and using the tablet. The purpose of this pilot was to troubleshoot technical and practical problems that might arise from introduction of a novel technology to a community that had never used or seen tablets, and to remedy these problems prior to the full-scale trial in the fall.

Elizabeth Kim – Class of 2019
Rome, Italy
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Nicola Napoli

Universita Campus Bio-medico (UCBM) is a private university in Rome, Italy. I was working under Dr. Nicola Napoli, who is faculty at both Washington University and UCBM as part of the Division of Bone and Mineral Sciences and Department of Endocrinology, respectively. My major project revolved around a study correlating anti-retroviral therapy and diabetes in rural Tanzania, where the data had been gathered previously by other members of the lab. Roles included literature searches and article writing.

Jenny Tobat – Class of 2019
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Andrej Speck

I would arrive at the hospital at 7 every morning, go to an infectious diseases class for an hour (the Guatemalan doctor I arranged the trip with was in charge of the ID rotation), then I would go off on whatever rotation I was assigned to this week. Rotations included ID, internal medicine, shock, ICU, HIV clinic, and patient security (checking for phlebitis and catheter infections). I would go on rounds in the morning, sometimes attend other classes, and sometimes participate a bit. I learned to take blood, do an ABG, examine for signs of phlebitis, place an IV, and place Foley catheters. I also improved my Spanish quite a bit. There was a conference for internal medicine I attended for three days towards the end which was pretty good.

Maeve Woeltje – Class of 2019
Blantyre, Malawi
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary

On a typical day, I would go with the other volunteers to one or two feeding clinics in some of the villages around Blantyre. Once there, we would work with nurses and community health workers to screen children under five for acute malnutrition and provide them with treatment accordingly.

2015

Emily Davis – Class of 2018
South Africa
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Indi Trehan

I went to a very beautiful rural village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where there is a remarkable community of doctors and community workers who are making incredible strides in improving the health and welfare of an impoverished area.

I spent mornings learning from the clinical teams at grand rounds and M&Ms, then I would usually go into the research office for a while to take care of the work for the day and make sure that everything was running smoothly before finishing my afternoons back in the hospital. On some days I would leave the village to go visit clinics with a physician, go on home visits with a physical therapist, or go on community interviews with the research members.

I learned a great deal from the inspiring community in Zithulele.

Liz Maidl & Julia Kolodziej – Class of 2018
Malawi
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Mark Manary

St. Louis Nutrition Project volunteers conduct malnutrition clinical research data collection in ~25 rural clinics in Southern Malawi. This research is in-conjunction with an RUTF feeding program called Project Peanut Butter.

A typical day with PPB involves getting up early (~5 AM) and driving out to one or two of our clinics situated all around Southern Malawi. As a research assistant, we were in charge of running each clinic – ensuring that the HSA’s (Malawian volunteers) were present, making sure all of the study children return for follow up, and addressing any issues that might arise. Additionally, we were also responsible for taking upper arm circumference measurements and heights for the children. After the clinic has completed, we headed back to Blantyre to input all of the data from that day into the database, usually leaving the evening free for any number of activities.

There are always different studies going on with PPB/SLNP.
We learned a lot about the difficulties of conducting research in a developing country; there are a lot of complications that we never would have considered before. We was able to interact with different researchers, physicians, and students in other health-related disciples.

 

2014

Karen Shen– Class of 2017 
Taipei, Taiwan
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Chyi-Song Hsieh

I spent six weeks in Taiwan this summer. I worked on a small RSV project in an Infectious Diseases lab and helped a nursing professor survey patients for her five-year clinical research study on end-of-life care. My time in the lab gave me more exposure to the translational side of research, and my time in the hospital helped me gain a better understanding of Taiwan’s healthcare system. It was very interesting to see how medicine delivery is modified to reflect local cultural values. In the infrastructure of Taiwan’s healthcare system, I saw an emphasis on filial piety and family value that is strongly associated with Chinese culture, which contrasts sharply with the emphasis on individual rights and privacy of personal information in the United States. Overall, I had a lot of fun talking to patients and physicians and observe firsthand how medicine works in a different environment.

June Wang – Class of 2017
Changsha, China
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Heidi Sandige

I spent ​this past ​summer shadowing and running an art and play program for pediatric inpatients at Xiangya Hospital #1 in Changsha, China. A typical day would begin and end with rounds—we had 28 neurology and 28 “other” (ID, nephrology, SLE, etc.) patients in our ward, so there was always plenty to see, especially since patient turnover tends to be quite high​ at Xiangya​. I used the hours in between to work my project, which was to initiate an art and play program at the hospital for inpatients aged 7 to 12. With each program participant, I’d spend 40 minutes a day either playing a game or working on an art project​ together​, and before discharge, I’d ask the participants and their parents to share their thoughts on the program by completing a survey. I plan to use the survey results as a springboard for a discussion with Xiangya on how the hospital can continue to move toward optimal delivery of personalized, holistic patient care.

I was able to learn a great deal about the Chinese healthcare system this past summer through my conversations with patients, parents, doctors, and medical students.​ ​Moreover, my​ time ​at Xiangya provided me with an invaluable opportunity to interact​ ​closely ​with​ ​pediatric inpatients and their families and make a positive difference in their lives.​

Dan Weisel and Sangitha Krishnan – Class of 2017
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Joaquin Barnoya

Our project investigated the relationship between fast food advertisements in newspapers and the growing obesity epidemic in Guatemala. We combed through each issue of 7 major newspapers over the course of 7 weeks and analyzed their layout, content, and marketing strategies. While this primary investigation was largely qualitative, our goal was to lay a foundation upon which further research can establish a relationship between fast food advertising exposure and consumption of those foods.

Aside from the research project, we learned a great deal about the health care system and the major flaws that lead to inadequate quality and access to health care. We were also able to shadow at other hospitals and clinics to understand how they are set up and appreciate the limited resources available to doctors. Additionally, it was interesting to learn about a new culture and country.

Harleen Grewal – Class of 2017
Cordoba, Argentina 
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Wichelman

I traveled to Cordoba, Argentina as a participant in InterCambio Cultural through the non-profit Child Family Health International. I spent 6 weeks rotating through various public hospitals in Cordoba and learning about healthcare in Argentina. I had the opportunity to work in various departments and experience what truly socialized medicine means. Specifically in Hospital San Roque, I rotated through surgery, the ER, cardiology, and neurology. In Hospital Rawson, an infectious disease hospital, I shadowed physicians dealing with mainly TB and HIV patients. As a student doctor, I was able to help physicians perform histories and physicals and practice my clinical exam techniques in Spanish. Additionally, every week, the other medical students in the program and I met with our Argentinian mentor to discuss our observations of the Argentinian healthcare system. Throughout my time in Cordoba, I was not only able to fully immerse myself in Argentinian culture, but experience a distinct healthcare system that is very different from the United States. (more information about this specific program can be found at cfhi.org)

Michael Snavely – MSTP entering class of 2013 
Guatemala and Peru 
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Bradley Stoner and Dr. Joaquin Barnoya

I spent five weeks in Guatemala and five weeks in Peru in attempts to compare and contrast the health care systems of two countries that have many parallels socially and historically. In Guatemala, I worked with public health researchers in Guatemala City, spent time with the prominent health care NGO Wuqu-Kawoq in Tecpan, shadowed a psychiatrist in Santiago Atitlan and visited a number of rural health posts. I left with feel for public and private as well as governmental and non-governmental health care in Guatemala.

In Peru, I spent time in each of the three major major biomes: the coast/desert, the mountains and the jungle, which are also distinct culturally. I met with medical anthropologists and public health researchers in all of these areas and was able to appreciate not only what was being accomplished by the health care system, but also the major challenges to health that remain in Peru, which I hope to follow up on during the course of my PhD in medical anthropology.

Rachel Corbin – Class of 2017
Huangshan, China
Washington University Mentor: Dr. Carolyn Sargent

I spent ten weeks conducting a medical anthropology research project in Huangshan City, in the province of Anhui, China. My research focused on understanding social factors contributing to the high rate of Cesarean section among women in this area. I interviewed fifty women about their birth experiences and analyzed their narratives for common themes. Some of the factors I became aware of seemed very specific to the Chinese medical system, while most are relevant to patients’ decision making in any culture or nationality–not only in China. Over this summer, I gained valuable experience conducting qualitative research, and I had a fascinating introduction to the Chinese medical system.