2020 DMU Research Symposium attracts hundreds – virtually

Want to know more about the effects of force and velocity in skeletal trauma? Whether celery seed is a “super vegetable” in inhibiting the growth of melanoma cells? How about the cost-effectiveness of podiatric care for heel pain versus podiatric care plus physical therapy treatment? Or the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on sexual assault reporting?

Insights on these topics and so many more were offered during Des Moines University’s 2020 Research Symposium, hosted by the University’s Office of Research and Continuing Medical Education (CME) Program on Dec. 3. Despite being held virtually due to the pandemic, as in its previous 10 years, the symposium offered a rich and diverse menu of poster and oral presentations, an expert keynote speaker and stimulating conversations among students and scientists. The event was attended by 416 individuals. All of its sessions can be viewed here.

“COVID-19 has changed our lives, but at Des Moines University, research has continued throughout the pandemic, following appropriate safety measures,” said DMU Provost Ralitsa Akins, M.D., Ph.D., in her welcome remarks. “DMU faculty are very supportive of providing research experiences for students. During 2020 thus far, we have had 37 faculty supporting research experiences for over 180 students. Our faculty provided more than 80 research elective rotations, more than 60 for-credit basic sciences research rotations, as well as capstone experiences and internships.”

As of Sept. 30, 2020, nearly $1.4 million in federal funding, more than $650,000 in private/foundation funding and $20,000 in industry funding had been awarded to DMU researchers for 21 projects, for a total of more than $2 million.

Researchers presented 75 posters in the categories of anatomy/paleontology, biomedical science, clinical practice, education, movement science and public health. Six DMU students gave five-minute “lightning” oral presentations.

“I see research as important to everyone, because it adds to the body of knowledge as a whole. It’s important for medical students to get a foundation in research. I see it as something that is going to benefit me as a physician and help my patients,” said third-year podiatric medical student Devon Niewohner after he presented his poster, “Investigating the relationships between known risk factors and drug-related mortality in rural Iowa.”

The symposium also featured DMU alumnus S. Vincent Grasso, D.O.’91, MSIS, M.B.A., who gave a keynote talk titled “Utilization of AI Ecosystem Assets in Healthcare.” A surgeon, solution/software architect and medical informaticist, Dr. Grasso is the global practice lead for health care and life sciences with IPsoft, the global leader in enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) and the world’s largest privately owned AI company. He has amassed significant expertise and experience in this area beginning back in the 1990s. He also provides primary care in an inner-city clinic for medically underserved and economically disadvantaged people in New Jersey and is chief technology officer for a Federally Qualified Health Center, owned by his DMU classmate Lisa Green, D.O.’91, M.P.H., that serves patients on the south side of Chicago.

Dr. Grasso related the “disruptive and damaging” consequences of the pandemic, from negative impacts on low-income people to decreased screenings for noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, to possible solutions that new technology presents. While transitioning to a health care system that brings care to where patients are, including their homes, is “really hard,” it can be facilitated by the use of artificial intelligence, business process mapping and better deployment of medical assistants.

“We need more tools in a pandemic environment, but that requires physicians, technology people and the business folks to work together,” he said.

He described machine learning, defined by technology company Nvidia as “the practice of using algorithms to parse data, learn from it and then make a determination or prediction about something in the world.” It can generate insights that health care providers wouldn’t otherwise have, such as the impact of a patient’s economic situation, transportation issues and other factors that impede health care compliance.

“Well-constructed design, integration, deployment and management of conversational computing, intelligent robotic process automation and machine learning into the evolving decentralized health care delivery landscape will yield sizable cost savings, improved clinical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction,” he said. That will allow providers, he added, to spend “more time doctoring.”

Researchers who participated in the symposium included students and faculty at DMU, Drake University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Missouri and Waukee, IA, High School’s APEX program. Presentations were judged for prizes, with the following winners by category.

Oral presentation:

  • Brittany Wilson, D.O.’23, M.B.S.’24; Rebekah Betar, D.O.’23; Alexander Martin, D.O.’23; Zack Niazi, D.O.’23; Michael Boyer; Lori Winter; Victor Babich, Ph.D., Francesca Di Sole, Ph.D.; and Elitsa Ananieva, Ph.D., “Profile of microRNA expression in urinary exosomes is dependent on non-invasive lymphoma induction in mice”

Poster presentations:

  • Anatomy/paleontology: Olivia Matz, D.O.’23, M.S.A.’19, and Heather Garvin, Ph.D., “Assessing the developmental age of a subadult Homo naledi vertebral column”
  • Biomedical science 1: Rachel Dietz, Pharm.D.’23, and James Sacco, Ph.D., “Erythrocyte glutathione transferase activity in cats”
  • Biomedical science 2: Faizan Khan, D.O.’23; Kelsey Hupp; Michael Boyer; and Elitsa Ananieva, Ph.D., “Using siRNA technology to inhibit the oncogene c-Myc in EL-4 lymphoma cells”
  • Clinical (tie):
    • Samantha Janssen, D.P.T.’21, and Catherine Stevermer, P.T., Ph.D., GCS, “Association of SSRI use with fall risk factors in community-dwelling older adults”
    • Sara Judickas, D.P.M.’22; Alyssia Morley, D.O.’22; Lori Byrd, M.S., and Jeffrey Gray, Ph.D., “Interdisciplinary approach to pediatric rib fractures in non-accidental trauma”
  • Education: John Dube, D.O.’22; Alyssa Manteufel, D.O.’22; Morgan Alwell, D.O.’23, Marijo Botten, D.O.’22; Daniela Frankova, M.D., Ph.D., FACP; Paul Schenarts, M.D.; Thomas Benzoni, D.O., EM, AOBEM, FACEP; and Teresa Aoki, M.D., “Boom goes the gas leak: Mass casualty simulation and its efficacy in medical education”
  • Movement science: Daniel Kasman, D.O.’21; Nirmal Maxwell, D.O.’21; Steven Halvorson, D.O.’22; David Stapleton; Traci Bush, D.P.T., OTR/L, D.H.S.; James Choi, M.D.; and Vassilios Vardaxis, Ph.D., “Glenohumeral joint center localization, anatomical invasive/non-invasive and functional methods”
  • Public health: Spencer Moore, D.O.’23; Pallavi Mukherji, D.O.; Ming Leung; and Jun Dai, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., “Methylation levels at growth differentiation factor-15 related CpG sites are not related to death risk from cardiovascular disease among monozygotic male twins discordant for cardiovascular disease: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Twin Study”
Scroll to Top