Research Forum Showcases 95 Medical Student Projects

By Dirk Hoffman

Published February 1, 2024

Ninety-five original research projects from aspiring physician-scientists were on display at the 2024 Medical Student Research Forum at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.


The medical students showcased projects they conducted at the University at Buffalo, its partner health care agencies and institutions throughout the nation.

They shared their work with faculty members and peers in detailed poster presentations.

Faculty Judges Select Most Outstanding Projects

A faculty panel selected four outstanding projects for special recognition during the event, which took place Jan. 24 in the second-floor atrium of the Jacobs School building.

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, announced the winners and gave closing remarks. She noted that student poster submissions increased 26 percent from the previous year.

“This is really being about on the journey to becoming a researcher. It is so important in medicine,” she said. “Whether you are at the bench, the bedside or you are out in the community, that is the way we are going to make an impact. That is how we end up bringing change into our patients and into our community.”

“You do not have to be in a lab to be a researcher. You can do research in any way and any shape you can contribute,” Brashear added. “There are multiple ways to be a researcher. And there is a wonderful pathway through each and every one of you to have that as part of your future career.”

David A. Milling, MD, executive director of the Office of Medical Education and senior associate dean for medical education, also commended and encouraged the students.

“You should be proud of the amazing work that all of you have done. And you make us very, very proud,” he said. “Congratulations and keep up the good work. Just because the Research Forum is done, don’t stop working on your projects. There are a lot more things to get accomplished in the time that you have left here.”

Two Posters Chosen to Share First-Place Honors

First Place (tie)

Anna Szombathy, Class of 2026

“Characterization of the Molecular Genetic Mechanism of the CHRFAM7A Inverted Allele”

CHRFAM7A is a human-specific fusion gene comprised of a fusion between CHRNA7 (alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor) and ULK4 (an ULK kinase). This gene is found in 99% of the human population and has robust associations with many neuropsychiatric disorders.

The gene can be found in either direct or inverted orientations (both of which are equally prevalent in the population), but only the direct orientation is translated and incorporated into the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7NAChR). The mechanism of the inverted allele, meanwhile, remains uncertain, though it has been shown to be strongly associated with diseases such as schizophrenia.

The researchers hypothesized that the inverted allele functions through an RNAi mechanism targeting either CHRNA7 or ULK4 (the two genes involved in the fusion gene). They used isogenic iPSC cell lines and neuronal progenitors to compare CHRNA7 expression in null (UB068) versus inverted CHRFAM7A (UB068_Δ2bp) cell lines.

They found that CHRFAM7A expression did not affect CHRNA7 gene expression. They then conducted immunoprecipitation studies with anti-CHRFAM7A and anti-α7NAChR antibodies to detect translation of CHRFAM7A and CHRNA7 in null versus inverted lines. The researchers found that CHRFAM7A was not translated in the inverted line, and that translation of CHRNA7 did not differ between the null and inverted genotypes, suggesting that the inverted allele does not regulate CHRNA7.

These results are consistent with the hypothesized RNAi regulatory mechanism of the CHRFAM7A inverted allele and suggests that the inverted allele regulates ULK4 expression. Improved understanding of this inverted RNAi mechanism will hopefully provide context for why the inverted allele holds such strong associations with neuropsychiatric disease.

Ryan Mackey, Class of 2024

“Predictive Accuracy of Rightward Extrapolation of the Left Ventricular End-Diastolic Pressure-Volume Relationship in Healthy Swine”

Objective: Myocardial stiffness is a primary determinant of left ventricular (LV) diastolic function and can be quantitatively described by the end-diastolic pressure-volume relationship (EDPVR). The EDPVR is traditionally derived by measuring LV end-diastolic pressure (EDP) and volume (EDV) during transient reductions in venous return (preload). However, the accuracy of this approach in predicting changes in LVEDP in response to a rise in LVEDV via rightward extrapolation has not been directly studied. Accordingly, the researchers sought to assess the predictive accuracy of preload reduction-derived EDPVRs in estimating LV diastolic stiffness (ΔLVEDP/ΔLVEDV) in healthy swine.

Conclusions: Rightward extrapolation of the EDPVR derived via IVC occlusion underestimates the rise in LVEDP when LVEDV is increased in the normal heart. This was observed with increased afterload (aortic occlusion) as well as when afterload and preload were simultaneously increased via PE. These findings highlight challenges in quantifying myocardial stiffness and reinforce the importance of assessing the hemodynamic response to increased LV loading directly, rather than extrapolating from EDPVRs created via transient preload reduction.

Second Place

Moriah Martindale, Class of 2026

“Race, Gender, Healthcare, and Research Perceptions Among Orthopaedic Patients: A Qualitative Study”

Race and gender impact health outcomes in multiple and complex ways. Direct patient experiences as well as patient attitudes and beliefs about race and gender may affect various aspects of health care, including patient willingness to participate in health care research.

This study aimed to describe 1) patient perceptions of racial and/or gender influences on their health care and 2) attitudes and barriers related to orthopaedic research participation among primarily Black/African American orthopaedic patients.

Twenty patients between the ages of 45 to 85 who presented with knee pain to an orthopedic clinic within a Level 1 county hospital were interviewed.

Half of the interviewed patients in this study perceived race or gender to be factors in their health care. The most salient factors included the quality of care received as well as their provider choice. Patients who expressed a preference for a provider desired a shared experience (e.g., concordant gender) with their provider, which is consistent with existing literature. Among the interviewed orthopaedic patients, there was a moderate to high level of trust in their provider.

Third Place

Walker Black, Class of 2026

“Complement Signaling as a T-Cell Checkpoint in Ovarian Cancer Microenvironment”

Durable antitumor immunity requires expansion and activation of tumor antigen-specific T cells. However, multiple immunosuppressive pathways are obstacles to T cell-driven antitumor immunity, and novel approaches are required to abrogate suppressive pathways.

The researchers used an ex vivo model consisting of neutrophils and T cells from healthy donors or patients with ovarian cancer (OC) and ascites fluid from OC patients or malignant effusions from other cancers as authentic components of the human tumor microenvironment (TME).

The researchers observed that neutrophil suppressor phenotype is dependent on neutrophil-T cell contact and several neutrophil functions that include complement signaling and NADPH oxidase. Neutrophil suppressors have broad effects on pathways driving T cell proliferation and activation including inhibition of stimulated T cell proliferation, cytokine responses, metabolic changes and mTOR activation.

Though exposure to OC ascites fluid supernatants does not inhibit CD3/CD28-stimulated T cell proliferation, it dramatically reduces cytokine production (e.g., IL-2 and IFN-γ) important for T cell activation. Importantly, stimulated T cell cytokine production was rescued by complement inhibition in TME. While complement C3-inhibitors restored Il-2 production, restoration is not dependent on C3aR and C5aR inhibitors.

These results will guide subsequent T cell signaling studies that will delineate mechanisms by which complement signaling is a checkpoint on T cell cytokines responses in the TME.

Cancer, Surgical Procedures Among Topics

Participants researched many important areas in their projects:

Student(s) Project

Ademola Adegbemigun

Patient Skin Radiation Dose During Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

Daniel Adelsberg

Risk Factors for Nasogastric Tube Feeding Failure Following Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Resection

Christina Andreou

Enrichment of Neuroblastoma Cells from Peripheral Blood Stem Cells of High-Risk Patients

Eylon Arbel

Colpectomy Reduces the Incidence of Urethral Fistula and Stricture Formation in Female-to-Male Gender Affirming Surgeries: A Meta-Analysis

Michael Augustin

Perception of Sunscreen Need and Affordability in the Buffalo Area

Beatrice Bacon

University at Buffalo DoctHERS (AMWA): Female Mentorship Pilot Program

Daniel Baetzhold

Buffalo Food Resources Needs Assessment

Mohamed Bah

Single Surgeon Unilateral Pedicle Screw Transformational Lumbar Interbody Fusion: Experience of More Than 100 Patients With Long-Term Follow-Up

Madison Ballacchino

Determining the Benefit of Frailty Scoring in Post-Operative Outcomes

Claire Beecher

Health Care Worker Education for Palliative Care in Africa

Perya Bhagchandani

Comparative Genomic Analysis of Autoimmune Diseases With Pemphigus Vulgaris

Walker Black

Complement Signaling as a T-Cell Checkpoint in Ovarian Cancer Microenvironment

Fernando Bomfim

Exploring Feasibility and Interest in Inegrated Urology-Transplant Surgery Training Programs in the United States

Jamie Bousleiman

Perceptions and Understanding of Parental Leave During Orthopedic Surgery Residency

Brayan Calle Gonzalez

Identifying Cell Processes Involved in Corneal Endothelial Cell Injury from Phacoemulsification

Deana Chan

Seizure Following In-Office Administration: A Case Report and Literature Review

Lauren Chavanne

Cardiac Arrest Pearls for Survival (CAPS): A Quality Improvement Initiative to Enhance Resident Education

Alexandra Corbin

YouTube’s Role in Empty Nose Syndrome Education

Gaby Cordero

Barriers to Longitudinal Community Service in Medical Education

Chloe Cottone

Supraclavicular Artery Island Flap for Head and Neck Reconstruction: Our Experience and Factors Predictive of Complications

Patrick Crossen

An Interprofessional Education Model to Provide Free School Sports Physicals to Underserved Communities

Ashtah Das

Not All Frailty is Equivalent: Comparing Frailty Index Scales in Their Capacity to Predict Mortality in Older Adults with Traumatic Brain Injuries

Erika Davidson

Modulation of the Chenokine Production in Colorectal Cancer Tumor Micro-Environment

Abbigail Delmonte

Elevated Liver Enzymes at the Time of Deceased Donor Organ Donation Do Not Affect Recipient or Pancreas Allograft Survival Following Pancreas Transplantation

Peter Demjanenko

Effects of SOS-Inhibiting Compounds on Protein and Nucleic Acid Release in Gram-Negative Bacteria

Nadine de Nijs

Assessing the Influence of Therapy Dogs on Mental Health and Well-Being Among Medical Students

Kendall DeSantis

Is Coronal Alignment Overcorrection a Risk Fsctor for Revision in TKA?

Alexandra DiVasta

A Qualitative Study of Patient Treatment Preferences and Willingness to Enroll in a Randomized Controlled Trial Among Primarily African American Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis

Katelyn Donnelly

A Qualitative Analysis of North American Medical Students’ Perspectives on the Impact to Medical Education of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Sabrina Dunn

Identifying Factors that Contribute to Delays in Stroke Treatment: An Analysis on Atypical Stroke Symptoms.

Tara Edwards

Determinants of Breastfeeding Among Ex-Smoking Mothers

Jade Edwards

Egg Consumption During Pregnancy and Risk of Gestational Diabetes

Sinan Ersan

The Effect of Teprotumumab Infusion on Ocular Alignment in Patients With Symptomatic Thyroid Eye Disease

Ifeoma Ezeilo

Relationship Between Sleep Disturbances and Neurodegenerative Markers in Older Veterans

Farangis Farsio

Mandibular Reconstruction of Hemifacial Microsomia in Goldenhar Syndrome: A Case Report and Review

Hendrick Francois

Sagittal Deformity Correction With Schwab 4 Osteotomy and Patient Reported Outcomes

Gabriela Funez-dePagnier

Maternal Neonatal Health Outcomes of an Integrated Obstetric Care Model in a Multicultural, Underserved Population

Karlie Gambino

Effects of an Optimal Default Grocery Shopping Intervention on Dietary Intake: Exploring the Role of Food Source

Erin Gawel

Current Diagnosis and Management of Cervical Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Children

Sabrina George

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Genetic Risk Haplotypes: Relevance to Children of African Ancestry

Jason Gershgorn

Diversity Among EMS Fellows

Adam Greenstein

Comparison of Percutaneous Cryoablation vs Microwave Ablation of Small Renal Masses in a Large Community Hospital Setting

Eisa Hashmi

Aurora Surgiscope for Minimally Invasive Evacuation of Intracranial Hemorrhages — A Preliminary Institutional Experience

Victoria Hoffman

Association Between Psoriasis with Depression in U.S. Adults: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2014

Holly Houenstein

The Role of the Microbiome in Chemotherapy-Associated Oral Mucositis

Nathaniel Iskhakov

Addressing Disparities in Kidney Transplant Outcomes: Insights From Lupus Nephritis Patients on Race, Gender, and Donor Sources

Sydney Johnson

Preliminary Evaluation of the Two Patient-Centered Educational Videos About Kidney Transplant Complications

Koulako Kaba

Creation of and Preliminary Analysis of Mutants in Two Low Molecular Weight Penicillin Binding Proteins, 5/6 and 6b in the XDR Acinetobacter Baumannii Clinical Isolate Ab834

Alaina Kenny

Auricular Erythromelalgia: A Survey of Patient Experiences

Joshua Kent

Incidence of Melanoma During the COVID-19 Pandemic: SEER Database Analysis

Kyle Kenyon and Macrae Kozody

Tibial Tubercle Avulsion With Concomitant Patellar Tendon Avulsion in the Pediatric Population: A Case Series

Katherine Kozlowski

The Influence of Musical Experience and Immersion on Laparoscopic Surgical Skill Performance

Marissa Kruk

Accessibility of Lactation Policies and Facilities for 1,847 ACGME-Accredited Surgical Residency Training Programs

Charles Lafargue

Characterization of Notch2 Expression and Opioid-Induced Molecular Plasticity in Rat Striatal Brain Regions 

Michael LaRock

Efficacy and Efficiency of Tourniquet Application in a Hemorrhagic Shock State

Eric Lovett Jr.

Update on “Cell Therapy” Clinics Offering Treatments of Ocular Conditions Using Direct-to-Consumer Marketing Websites in the United States

Madelyn Lux

Kawasaki Disease Antibody Peptide Binding Obtained Using Phage Display

Ryan Mackey

Predictive Accuracy of Rightward Extrapolation of the Left Ventricular End-Diastolic Pressure-Volume Relationship in Healthy Swine

Bailey Majtyka

Teaching and Applying Motivational Interviewing Strategies Within a Primary Care Setting in Caring for Patients With Opioid Use Disorder

Megan Malueg

Global Congenital Anomalies of the Central Nervous System: A Systematic Review of Literature

Colin Marchincin

The Effect of Central Corneal Thickness and Corneal Hysteresis on Intraocular Pressure Measurements Using Various Devices

Moriah Martindale

Race, Gender, Healthcare, and Research Perceptions Among Orthopaedic Patients: A Qualitative Study

Daniel Maywalt

Improving COVID-19 Disease Severity Surveillance Measures: The Case for Implementing Accessible Screening to Protect High-Risk Populations

James McKinnon, Sydney Pigott, Jenna Lutfy, and Bryan Velez

Mass Casualty Simulation: Assessment of the Performance of Anesthesia Residents in a Mass Casualty Scenario After Receiving Prior Didactic Training in Hospital Trauma and Triage Care

Chloe McQuestion

The Validity of Frailty Scoring in Preoperative Risk Assessment for Patients in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Jacob Mogerman

Risk of Infection Following Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty After Failed Rotator Cuff Repair: A Retrospective Review

Kyle Mueller

Cyclosporine Immunosuppression Enhances Only Early Tumor Growth During Chronic UV Exposure in a Mouse Model of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Nitya Murali

Dose Response Study of Extracellular Vesicles on Adult Cardiomyocyte Apoptosis

Mehr Nasir-Moin

Machine Learning-Based Identification of Hair Follicles in Mouse Skin Using Reflectance Confocal Microscopy

Sara Nieto

Egg Consumption During Pregnancy and Risk of Gestational Diabetes 

Dominic Occhino

Effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Treatment Resistant Depression on PHQ-9 and Cognivue Cognitive Assessment Scores

Alexandra Pado

Early BBN-Induced Proliferation in Male and Female Mice Bladders and Associated TRP53 Mutations

Teresa Pullano

Dialysis Staff Perceptions of Animated Video Education About Kidney Transplantation

Alyssa Reese

Penile Replantation: A Review of Microsurgical Techniques, Patient Outcomes, and Potential Solutions to Complex Reconstructive Challenges

Baltaj Sandhur

Comparison of Volk and Phelcom Hand-Held Portable Fundus Cameras for the Identification of Common Retinal Diseases 

Johann Schwarz

Role of Oxytocin Receptor in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Cancer Associated Fibroblasts

Nuuh Sidali

Impact of Radiologists and Pathologists on Thoracic Multidisciplinary Cancer Conferences 

Shyon Small

Identifying Literature on Long-Term Clinical Outcomes After Shoulder Arthroplasty Using Uncemented Humeral Stems

Anthony Snyder

Effect Of Ticketing Rates On Pediatric Motor Vehicle Crashes In New York State: A County-Based Analysis

Joshua Sorrentino

Adipofascial Anterolateral Thigh Free Flap in Head and Neck Reconstruction — A Case Series

Alexandra Spath

Radiation Safety Among Female Orthopaedic Surgeons: A Survey of Provider Knowledge and Practices

Karen Stephenson

“I’m Not a Bad Mother.” Perceptions of Stigma Among Mothers With Substance Use Disorder in the Criminal Justice System 

Daniel Sullivan

Management and Outcomes of Patients with Ta Low Grade Urothelial Carcinoma of the Bladder with Focal High-Grade Features

Umair Syed

Immediate Effects of Acoustic Blast Overpressure on Corneal Endothelial Cells

Anna Szombathy

Characterization of the Molecular Genetic Mechanism of the CHRFAM7A Inverted Allele

Zakwan Uddin

Acute Changes in Erythema and Edema in SKH1 Mice After UV Irradiation

Maria Urbina Castillo

Unidos Por La Salud: A Pathway to Improving Latino Health in Buffalo 

Emily Vallee

Examination of Social Determinants of Health and Their Influence on Presentation and Outcomes Among Patients Undergoing Surgery for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Alexandra Wadhwani

Pro-Fibrotic Gene Expression is Observed Throughout the Left Ventricle in a Porcine Model of Multi-Vessel Coronary Artery Disease 

Joseph Wahba

Expression and Function of Ketolytic Enzymes in Lung Cancer Cell Survival

Gretchen Weiss
Geometric Modeling of Rod and Cone Photoreceptor Arrangement in the Human Retina

Jeremy Wells

Readability of Orthopedic Trauma Patient Educational Materials From Top Orthopedic Trauma Hospital Websites

Tenzin Yongye

A Private Facebook Support Group for Kidney Transplant Patients at a Single Center: A Qualitative Analysis of Member Engagement

Callista Zayatz

RE-AIM Evaluation of a Regional, School-Based Health Program

Sam Zheng

Investigating the Effect of SOS Response Pathway on Biofilm Formation in Enterobacter Cloacae Niagara