The more than 500 graduate and undergraduate students, faculty members, staff, residents and other researchers who attended the 2015 DMU Research Symposium on Dec. 3 enjoyed a stimulating mix of scientific topics and difficult questions posed on the ethics of research itself.
Jeffrey Gray, Ph.D., DMU’s vice president for research, says, “Our symposium has grown quite large and has become an excellent forum to present important research. For some of the students, the DMU Research Symposium is their first step into the more formal world of research and academia. The symposium is more than an opportunity to present research. It is an opportunity to discuss how their research will affect health care advancements, receive constructive feedback from affiliated faculty and fellow students, and establish relationships between future peers in the health care professions.”
The sixth annual event featured keynote speaker J. Michael Oakes, Ph.D., associate professor in the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota. Oakes discussed what the New York Times in May called “a string of festering research scandals” at the university. The investigated practices included fraud in a drug study that resulted in a felony conviction and a Food and Drug Administration research disqualification for a psychiatrist; enrollment of illiterate Hmong refugees in a study without their consent; and the suicide of a seriously mentally ill young man who had enrolled in an industry-funded antipsychotic study rather than face involuntary commitment to an institution.
“What can we learn from this so it doesn’t happen again?” asked Oakes, an active researcher on a wide variety of studies addressing social epidemiology and research ethics. “The question is how to do research better and more ethically.”
Oakes led an internal investigation of the University of Minnesota’s psychiatry department regarding the suicide case. During the keynote presentation, he acknowledged the difficulty of gaining consent from vulnerable human subjects, including mentally ill individuals. But he emphasized that informed consent is “not just a signature on a form”; it entails ensuring the subject truly understands what is going to happen and why, and whether the researcher has any conflicts of interest. Once in a study, subjects must have the “constant opportunity to withdraw,” and the researchers must keep subjects’ welfare and safety as priorities. That’s especially true for health care providers engaged in research.
“As researchers and health care providers we must ‘do the right thing’ and protect our patients,” Oakes said.
He added that institutional review boards, or IRBs, must be “more rigorous”; researchers must disclose all real and possible conflicts of interest; and institutions must respond “fully and thoughtfully” to any issues. “The culture of our teams and leadership really matter,” he said. “If you see something wrong, you have to speak of it.”
In addition to Oakes’ keynote, which required an overflow auditorium to accommodate the number of attendees, the Research Symposium included an oral and poster presentation competition. Undergraduates, graduates, residents and other medical researchers submitted 57 abstracts in the areas of movement science, education, public health and biomedical science. Four oral presenters were selected, and the remaining 53 gave poster presentations. Posters were assessed on technical, visual and presentation aspects, and the four oral presentations were judged on their submitted abstracts.
The following presenters were recognized for their outstanding work.
Graduate poster presentations
- Movement science: Jacqueline Pasulka, D.O.’19 – “Relationship Between Sports Specialization Age and Injury in Young Athletes”
- Education: Kelsey Millonig, D.P.M./M.P.H.’17 – “The Use of Clinical Training Student Self-Assessment as a Tool for Curriculum Evaluation”
- Public health: Kristine Anderson, M.P.H.’17 – “Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive Health Care Provider Pilot Study”
- Biomedical science: Samuel L. Lampe, D.O.’18 – “Adenosine Receptor Activation Blocks Dopamine-Induced Natriuresis”
Resident poster presentation
- Education: Kristin Gisselman, D.O., Mercy Medical Center-Family Medicine Residency – “Creating a Cohesive Approach to Research”
Undergraduate poster presentations
- Public health: Megan Lindmark, Drake University – “Analysis of Water Sources and Filtration Methods in Rural and Urban Uganda”
- Biomedical Science: Kevin Smaller, Drake University – “Oral L-Tyrosine Supplementation Augments Vasoconstriction to Whole Body Cooling in Older Adults”
Graduate oral presentation
- Liran BenDor, D.O.’18 – “Calcineurin Homologous Protein Genetic Variants Associated with an Increase in Blood Pressure”