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How one student’s research project mentor inspired his career pursuits.

With two published papers, an oral presentation and a summer working with a Los Angeles spine surgeon, Stephan Aynaszyan got more than he bargained for from Geisinger Commonwealth’s Medical Research Honors Program when he started two years ago.

Stephan began medical school with hopes of pursuing a career in orthopaedics. He said, “I had a strong interest in orthopaedics coming into medical school. I like the idea of being able to relieve someone’s pain by the work of my hands — it’s instant gratification.”

He’s currently working on his honors thesis, focusing on imaging and nuances with bone quality assessment. 

Reaping rewards from research

That hard work has paid off. His first paper was published in Scholarly Research in Progress and then by the North American Spine Society Journal. More recently he had a paper published in The Spine Journal, the top spine journal in the world.

In June, Stephan also gave an oral presentation of his paper published in The Spine Journal at the Global Spine Congress in Las Vegas. 

“All this work falls under the umbrella of imaging and what is the most optimal way of assessing bone density — an important assessment surgeons need to make before planning spine surgery,” Stephan said.

Mentorship leads to inspiration

Stephan began his research as a first-year medical student under the mentorship of Geisinger orthopaedic surgeon Edward DelSole, MD. He credits Dr. DelSole’s commitment to students’ success with solidifying his decision to pursue orthopaedics. 

Stephan notes, “He tells us, ‘I want you to go wherever you want to go. Wherever that is, we’re going to get you there.’”

Handling it all with grace

Recognizing the competitive nature of orthopaedics, Stephan handles the extra demands of his honors program with ease. In fact, he’s come to appreciate and enjoy the extra work that his research brings. 

“I’ve been gaining more knowledge in statistical analysis, study design and the clinical aspect of research,” he said.  “And working with Dr. DelSole made it even more enjoyable.”

He notes that it made sense to do the honors program because it will make him a better candidate for residency.

Stephan Aynaszyan giving a speech at the Global Spine Congress 2022