ASSURE fellowship graduates second cohort of students as program continues to flourish and receives external funding support

For the last 10 weeks, students from local colleges in the bi-state area have joined the Department of Anesthesiology as Anesthesiology Summer Research (ASSURE) fellows, and have worked under the mentorship of department faculty to conduct research projects.

Learn about the 2022 Cohort >>

The goal of the ASSURE program is to provide opportunities in a variety of biomedical research fields to local undergraduate students, some of whom are from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in science and medicine.  

Wrapping Up Another Successful Summer

Throughout the semester, in addition to full-time work with a faculty member, fellows attended roundtable lunches and seminars with renowned researchers from across the country. These visiting speakers shared details about their personal journeys to becoming principal investigators and discussed questions their labs are currently tackling.

  • Dr. Hugo Tejeda, Stadtman Investigator, Chief of the Unit on Neuromodulation and Synaptic Integration, National Institute of Mental Health – Bethesda, MD
  • Dr. Nicholas Gilpin, Professor of Physiology, Vice Chair of Research in Physiology, Associate Director of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence, Louisiana State University – New Orleans
  • Dr. Ishmail Abdus-Saboor, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Columbia University – Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, New York City, NY
  • Dr. Yarimar Carrasquillo, Investigator, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Division of Intramural Research-Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity

These eminent faculty investigators also gave a scientific research seminar at the School of Medicine, which allowed fellows to get an inside look at how faculty members communicate and share novel knowledge in their fields.

In addition to weekly seminars, ASSURE fellows also attended workshops led by members of the Department of Anesthesiology. These workshops covered a wide variety of topics such as: grant formulation and graduate school admissions preparation; advice from PhD and MD students about graduate and medical schools and learning helpful tips about preparing personal statements, resumes, and letters of recommendation; how to communicate one’s science and properly organize scientific posters and oral presentations.

ASSURE fellows concluded their summers with an end-of-program poster session at the School of Medicine, where they presented their work and answered questions about the research they conducted throughout the summer.

Assessment of Risk Factors for Development of Persistent Postsurgical Pain: Sleep Disturbance

By: Joel Hanns

“Over the summer, I was working on a large study called Personalized Prediction of Persistent Postsurgical Pain (P5). As the name indicates, the study attempts to find predictive factors for the development of persistent postsurgical pain (PPSP) to better understand the phenomenon and potentially target treatment in the future. The final outcome of the study will be an algorithm that can hopefully use the factors to predict individual risk for developing PPSP. As the study is currently ongoing, I decided to choose one factor to analyze: preoperative sleep quality. I chose this due to the interlinking between sleep quality, pain perception, and affect. The analysis compared two separate measures of sleep quality: a one-time, more in-depth survey of sleep quality and the average daily, one-question survey on sleep quality. The scores of those who did and did not develop PPSP were compared and found to be significantly different from each other. Further statistical tests were performed to determine if there was an association between the two measures utilized and whether the correlations found could be due to other factors. Overall, it appears that those who go on to develop PPSP experience higher levels of sleep disturbance than those who do not based on the data we collected,” says Joel Hanns, ASSURE Scholar.

Analgesics: Advancing Drug Discovery Through mGluR5 using Knockout Mice

By: Ananda Dent

“My project was focused on how mGluR5 could be a potential target for pain treatment by using wood-type mice and knockout mGluR5 mice. We used the techniques of immunohistochemistry and PCR to endure that we did have mGluR5 in the wild type and to see if mGluR5 was knocked out in the knockout mice,” says Ananda Dent, ASSURE Scholar.

Detection of MGLUR5 in Knockout Mice

By: Jordan Pippin

“Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 5 allows for regulation of the central nervous system function through the actions of metabotropic receptors. This receptor is located throughout the brain with high populations being found in the Hippocampus, Periaqueductal Gray (PAG), and Trigeminal Nucleus Caudalis (TNC). MGLUR5 is an excellent candidate for chronic pain modulation from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system. This receptor is known to enhance sensitization to pain. Knockout mice were used to demonstrate an existing gene that was inactivated by replacing or disrupting it with an artificial piece of DNA,” says Jordan Pippin, ASSURE Scholar.

Investigating complex behaviors with Feeding Experimentation Device 3 (FED3)

By: Fatouma Sam

“The goal of my research project this summer was to explore utilizing Feeding Experimentation Device 3 (FED3) to design different behavioral tasks in the context of chronic pain and Alcohol use disorder. My first application of FED3 was using it to study a dopamine-mediated behavior, which is an effort-based reversal task. The Creed lab is specifically interested in the behavioral effects of the chronic pain-induced hypodopaminergic state. We wanted to know if this low-dopamine level following chronic pain will alter mice’s activity levels or their abilities to flexibly react to the changes in requirements for a reward. My second project focuses on Alcohol use disorder. The goal was to develop a home-cage stop signal task for mice that will potentially be used in the future to investigate how alcohol affects impulsive decision making,” says Fatouma Sam, ASSURE Scholar.

Urinary Catheter Utilization Attitudes, Perceptions, and Practices in a Surgical Intensive Care Unit

By: Amber Williams

“Indwelling urinary catheter utilization and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) are common in the intensive care unit (ICU). High catheter utilization increases the risk of developing CAUTI. Although previous research attempts to decrease urinary catheter utilization in the ICU have been very unsuccessful. An implementation science approach to decrease urinary catheter utilization is needed. The first step to understanding the foundation is to look at the attitudes, perceptions and practices of urinary catheter utilization in the ICU. Through further exploration prominent themes concerning the project include the need for workflow efficiency, promoting a nurse-driven protocol, and increasing education,” says Amber Williams, ASSURE Scholar.

Several ASSURE fellows from the 2022 cohort have been hired into both full-time and part-time positions to continue their research trajectories while making plans for graduate and medical school. There are also four ASSURE program alumni from 2021 who continue working in full-time positions within the Department of Anesthesiology.

A Promising Future

Looking ahead, the ASSURE fellowship program aims to continue growing in size and scope by seeking additional support through grants and philanthropic funding. This additional funding will help support the program’s goals and provide more opportunities to students interested in biomedical research fields and ensure its sustainability for years to come.

Recently, the fellowship program was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital which will be instrumental in maintaining momentum and continuing to improve the program.

“The funding for the ASSURE program provided by the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital is extremely meaningful, particularly at this early stage as we work to expand and strengthen this program. This will allow us to support additional trainees, and will help us in developing a stable future,” says Robert Gereau, vice-chair for research. “We are extremely grateful for this support, and look forward to seeing our ASSURE fellows thrive and advance in their careers with the assistance of the FBJH.”