MSSRP available projects – 2019

New MSSRP projects are posted when submitted by faculty after the start of the calendar year, and retired as students match with preceptors.  The deadline for matches is April 30, 2019.


Faculty:  Mark Russell
Department:  Dermatology
Contact: 924-5599, email:  mr2h@virginia.edu
Project title:  Creation of a digital photographic database
Project description:  Creation of a digital photographic database of clinical and histologic dermatology teaching slides.  This will be used for the education of medical students, residents, fellows, and attending’s in the department of Dermatology, the medical school, and the medical center.  The student will be involved in the process of scanning, indexing, and validating the photographic contents in conjunction with an archivist and faculty member.  The student will be part of the team that creates, evaluates, and refines the process.


Faculty:  Edward C. Nemergut, MD
Department:  Anesthesiology
Contact:   982-0802/email:  en3x@virginia.edu
Project title: Determine the qualities that influence patient perception of physicians, particularly the role of age and gender
Project description:  The Medical Education Research Group was founded to bring greater scientific rigor to research in medical education and thereby improve the education of physicians and non-physicians. The group has been involved in the development of novel algorithms for individualized spaced-repetition, adaptive learning, Bayesian assessment, and generative retrieval practice. We have also studied the impact of fatigue on physician well-being, sleep, and technical skills. Finally, we have evaluated the impact of physician characteristics on patient perception of physician intelligence and competence.

The results of these projects have led to the publication in high-impact journals and we have multiple ongoing projects.

We are seeking a motivated medical student with a strong interest in education who plans a career in academic medicine to assist with a new project. The aim of this project is to determine the qualities that influence patient perception of physicians, particularly the role of age and gender. The student will assist with recruitment of subjects including patients in the Preanesthesia Evaluation and Testing Center (PETC). He or she will be primarily responsible for data collection and will assist with analysis. The student may also have the opportunity to participate in other projects.


Faculty:  Larry Borish, MD
Department:  Medicine, Allergy and Immunology
Contact:   243-6570, email:  lb4m@virginia.edu
Project title:  Immunodeficiency Research
Project description:  This would involve the student in our primary immune deficiency (PID) research program. We have a large cohort of adult and pediatric patients with physician-diagnosed primary immunodeficiency that we follow here at the University of Virginia in our dedicated Primary Immunodeficiency clinics (both adult and pediatric). If interested, this project would entail the following:

1. Performing a retrospective chart review of patients seen in this clinic over the past 2-3 years, and entering them into a database which will record clinical features, pertinent laboratory data, and genetic testing (when available). We will also want to include patients prospectively as we enroll them (see below). Once the database has been completed then we will be able to query it to answer questions about our cohort. An immediate example of such a question and one we would hope you would want to take ownership of would be to determine the frequency of detecting genetic variants (the so called “hit rate”) in genes relevant to immune pathways. We are seeing very frequent genetic variants in this population although they are usually labeled as “variants of unknown significance” or “not relevant’. We believe their frequency belies the “unknown” descriptor. A related question will be to see if there are multiple patients with similar phenotypes, who also have similar genetic variants that for one reason or another have been deemed “not relevant” e.g. if it is a single allelic change in a disease which is thought to be autosomal recessive. If we can find multiple patients, perhaps we can prove that these genetic variants ARE pathogenic somehow (perhaps a 2 hit hypothesis or haploinsufficiency or dominant negative mechanisms could be at play … lots of possibilities). We can explain this in more detail should you choose to come here.

2. Shadowing us (Dr. Borish and Dr. Lawrence) two half-days a week in the Primary Immunodeficiency clinics, to learn more about these patients diseases and gain important clinical experience

3. During the course of these clinics, help obtain informed consent from and enroll patients and (for those who consent) draw blood from patients and bring it back to the lab. You will use this blood to isolate peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) which will then be frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen; isolate serum which will again be frozen and stored; and extract DNA, again for freezing and storage. This will establish a biorepository for future studies.


Faculty:  Jim Tucker, MD
Department:  Psychiatry
Contact:  924-2281, email:  jbt8n@virginia.edu
Project title:  Children’s reports of past-life memories
Project description:  This is part of an ongoing project involving more than 2,500 cases of young children from around the world who have reported memories of previous lives. Students will review individual case reports (including medical records, interviews, and correspondence) and code the material into variables. They will then enter the information into a database, which enables analysis of various features of the cases.

Students will participate in a weekly research meeting that focuses on the scientific study of unusual phenomena, including near-death experiences and cases of purported past-life memories. They will also have the opportunity to watch several television documentaries that have been made about this work.


Faculty:  Weibin Shi, PhD  (2 students requested)
Department:  Rad
Contact:  email:  ws4v@virginia.edu
Project title:   2 projects (details listed below)
Project description:
Project 1: Quantitative MRI and CT of body fat and risk of cardiometabolic diseases

Obesity is increasingly prevalent and associated with risk of cardiometabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes (T2D) and atherosclerosis. Body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio are the measurements currently used for defining obesity. These indirect parameters are often unable to accurately reflect the amount and distribution of body fat. In contrast, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) can accurately measure adipose tissue, thus allowing elucidation of the pathological role of obesity in T2D and atherosclerosis. The relationships of subcutaneous and visceral fat with progression of T2D and coronary heart disease will be determined through retrospective study of human MRI and CT images. We will use deep-learning algorithms developed by my lab to measure subcutaneous and visceral fat on MRI and CT images.

Project 2: : Genetic connections between type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis

Diabetic patients have 2~4-fold increased risk of developing atherosclerotic vascular disease and its complications compared to non-diabetic individuals, and individuals with atherosclerosis frequently have type 2 diabetes (T2D). Although genetic factors have been well documented as a major determinant of cardiovascular events in type 2 diabetic patients, identification of causal variants has been confounded by both environmental and genetic heterogeneity. We have observed that Apoe-/- mice, a commonly used model for atherosclerosis research, develop T2D on certain genetic backgrounds after prolonged exposure to a Western diet but become resistant after being transferred on certain other backgrounds. We will use mouse genetics tools to identify genetic factors that connect two important diseases.


Faculty:  Susanna Keller/MD
Department:  Medicine/Endocrinology
Contact:  243-5780/email:  srk4b@virginia.edu
Project title:  Genetic modification of dietary effects on nutrient distribution and metabolism
Project description:  Genetic modification of dietary effects on nutrient distribution and metabolism.  The aim of the project is to investigate effects of different diets on nutrient distribution and metabolism in key metabolic tissues and evaluate how individuals’ genetic backgrounds modify effects.


Faculty:  Keith Littlewood, MD/Maria E. Vazquez-Amaral, J.D., M.Ed. (3 students requested)
Department:  Medical Simulation
Contact:   924-2566, email: mes2uq@virginia.edu
Project title:  Simulation-based education in the NxGen Curriculum
Project description:  The Medical Simulation Center has an opportunity for 3 students to work as a team on a variety of project that provide involvement in multi-institutional collaboration project regarding VR in healthcare education, an ADE funded research project re: EPAs and educational materials related to simulation-based education in the NxGen Curriculum. The students will work together and receive mentoring from the simulation faculty and team on these projects. This opportunity would be ideal for students interested in medical education, curricular development and simulation technologies.


Faculty:   Daniel Sheeran
Department:  Radiology
Contact:  924-9401, email:  dps7u@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu
Project title:  Risk factors for failed splenic artery embolization in the setting of trauma.
Project description:  Angiography has become a significant adjunctive diagnostic and therapeutic procedure for trauma patients. It is widely used in the setting of blunt trauma to the spleen, pelvis, and liver to name a few. The successes of embolization in the setting of a hemodynamically stable patient with splenic trauma are widely published. However, there is a relative paucity of information on predisposing risk factors for failure of this technique. In addition, proximal splenic artery embolization is most commonly performed in trauma,with a good safety parameter; though, its true effects on splenic and pancreatic function are much less understood.

The goal of this project is for a student to review the electronic medical record of patients who underwent splenic artery embolization in the setting of trauma. The student will evaluate the technique used in conjunction with an interventional radiologist and correlate the technique used with patient presentation and subsequent follow-up. We will study degree of injury, type of injury, patient demographics, coagulation risk factors, among other presenting characteristics. Imaging review will include review of trauma CT images and therapeutic angiographic images. Follow-up will then be evaluated by review of clinical and laboratory response following the embolization procedure.

The goal of this project is submission for an abstract to national meeting as well as production of results that will generate a publication in the interventional radiology literature.


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