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On July 29, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine held its annual Summer Research Immersion Program (SRIP) symposium.

On July 29, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine held its annual Summer Research Immersion Program (SRIP) symposium. Each year, SRIP offers research opportunities to students between their first and second years of the MD curriculum. Over the course of eight weeks, students work on a wide variety of projects under the guidance of a research mentor. To conclude the program, each student (or pair/team of students) presents their work during the Summer Research Symposium.

This year the symposium featured more than 70 presenters, who shared their research over two poster sessions. Dr. Aviad Haramati, professor of integrative physiology in the Departments of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Biology and Medicine (nephrology), and co-director of the CAM Graduate Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, delivered the keynote speech. An awards ceremony followed.

“Each year I am astonished at the quality of the research our students present, and I am proud of how the symposium has grown in terms of the number of presenters. This year’s program featured some truly impressive work, and our students are to be commended for working so diligently with their faculty mentors,” said Sonia Lobo, PhD, RYT, associate dean for research & scholarship and professor of biochemistry.

The winning presentations were:

  • Wanyan Ma and mentor, Dr. Joseph Blansfield with a presentation entitled, “Clinical T2N0M0 esophageal cancer – Does treatment pathway affect overall survival? A National Cancer Database Study.” The study compared survival outcomes in T2N0M0 esophageal cancer via treatment modality, identified factors associated with treatment modality and compared clinical to pathologic stage. The study found that patients with T2N0M0 esophageal cancer who undergo chemoradiation preoperatively have a survival benefit compared to those who have chemoradiation postoperatively. Future work is needed to stage these patients more accurately so those who should undergo chemotherapy and radiation get the treatment they need and those that do not are spared.

  • Mark Brown and mentor, Dr. Prerna Sharma, with a presentation entitled, “Data mining and characterization of a novel lectin.” The study’s aim was to identify a novel sequence of a GalNAc/Gal-specific lectin (important molecules in the modulation of viral infections, inflammation and cancer progression) from Pecten maximus (Pectmax) and compare its sequence, structure and binding characteristics with a well-studied lectin from the same family. The study’s authors are now standardizing the protocol binding studies and will compare and characterize the stability of these molecules via thermal and chemical denaturation studies. The plan is to screen Pectmax against various glycan markers to identify and characterize its potential therapeutic and diagnostic applications in cell signaling, prevention of viral replication, and detection of tumors.

  • Bianca Sanchez and mentor, Dr. Brian Piper, with a presentation entitled, “COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. among a nationally represented sample of Hispanic/Latinos.” This project intended to uncover the main reasoning behind the gap in vaccination rates among Latino/Hispanic populations across the U.S. The top three concerns regarding the vaccine included:
    • safety of the contents of the vaccine (endorsed by 49.5%),
    • concerns about the side effects (49.5%)
    • lack of belief in the protective ability of the vaccine (24.2%).

    Additionally, there was widespread belief in the validity of common myths surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccine. The top three misinformation beliefs were myths such as:

    • the vaccine was rushed, and developers cut corners in its creation” (59.0% mean belief on a 0-100 scale)
    • the vaccine does not work (48.0%)
    • previously infected people do not need the vaccine (44.0%) were the top three misinformation beliefs.

    The authors concluded that their findings could inform the development of targeted educational interventions to address specific concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Latino/Hispanic communities to achieve better vaccination rates.

2021 Summer Research Immersion Program (SRIP) Symposium
Students accept certificates for their winning presentations, from left: Mark Brown, Bianca Sanchez and Wanyan Ma, all members of the MD Class of 2024

Please note: CDC masking recommendations and Geisinger COVID safety protocols were followed during this July 2021 event.