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Marshall medical students put research to the test

March 23, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON — For more than 120 of Marshall University’s young medical minds, Friday represented a moment of truth when months of their own work would be held to the fire.

The university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine hosted its 31st annual Research Day at the Marshall University Medical Center in Huntington. For students, residents and young faculty from the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, the day-long event was a reckoning moment to publicly present their personal research, as varied as their disciplines, to the scrutiny of the experienced practitioners.

Although presented orally and on poster board similar in appearance to any school science fair, the breadth of study and ramifications are far deeper.

The research may spark a continuum of work, sway students toward a future specialty or become the competitive edge for entry to a residency program. For post-doctoral students, their research can sometimes become their life’s work.


For Amritta Mallick, a post-doctorate student originally from India, her work on the relationship between obesity and gut microbes falls in line with Marshall’s ongoing deep research into obesity issues — particularly a new clinical trial to treat nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

If there was any inkling of nerves about her research now out in view, the 36-year-old was ice cold and confident on the outside.

“If you do your own research and you know what drove you to do that research, what your hypothesis was and what you’re finding and what can imply from that research and how it is significant — it drives all that hard work and the hours in the lab,” Mallick said.

“It’s that adrenaline rush you get when you get a good result.”

Brandon Thompson’s research focused on improving the evaluation process for clerkship students, who are essentially graded as students based on feedback, surveys and written statements rather than scores.

The 26-year-old second-year student and Idaho native pointed out how simple changes to the way upper-level students are evaluated could be improved and provide more meaningful insight to his adopted home in Huntington.

“Being able to ask questions and be in a community where I can have those questions answered I hope can really better the school that I’ve become a part of,” Thompson said.

But the opportunity to embark on your own great work as a medical student doesn’t likely hit closer to home for anyone more than Mohammed Ranavaya, a Huntington native and Cabell Midland alum who also finished his undergraduate program at Marshall prior to medical school.

The second-year Ranavaya’s research examined whether shorter plates could effectively be used to repair fractured bones — potentially creating a more comfortable patient experience.

“We hear a lot about these big institutions out there and a lot of times people look over smaller institutions like us, but we still have just as much ability to do research and just as interesting projects,” Ranavaya said.

“In terms of research opportunities, I’ve never felt like I’ve been stunted in that way. It’s a really good opportunity for kids around here to look into that — you don’t have to look far for something cool to do.”