Four students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) received summer research fellowships through an endowment established by Charles J. Schleupner, professor of internal medicine at the school and infectious disease physician at Carilion Clinic. This is the second year the awards have been made.

“It’s all in the name of the advancement of knowledge,” said Schleupner, who also serves on the VTCSOM Dean’s Council on Advancement. “Whether students move on in their careers to conduct research or at least know how to assess published research in academic journals, to be able to do so effectively is critically important to what medicine is about — the science of medicine.”

In pursuit of its mission to create the next generation of physician thought leaders, the school has a disciplined focus on research in its curriculum. Students are required to complete a four-year, hypothesis-driven project of publishable quality. Research time is built into the curriculum, making the school one of the few nationwide to put this much emphasis on student research.

Many of the students admitted to VTCSOM cite the research curriculum as one of the main reasons they selected the school. In fact, each member of the Class of 2025 had an average of more than 3,000 research hours prior to matriculating at VTCSOM.

VTCSOM provides funding to support each student’s research activities, but funds are limited.  Most students’ research requires additional support, which can come from grants or fellowships such as this one. In addition, the money provides stipends to students wishing to conduct research during the summer.

The four fellows, each a member of the Class of 2025 are:

Farwah Iqbal

Project: Understanding the cross talk between macrophages and smooth muscle cells in the development of vascular disease.

Research Mentor: Scott Johnstone, assistant professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and Department of Biological Sciences.

In her words: I am grateful to receive this award and excited that the evaluators saw potential in our research objectives. Research has never been a job for me but is my passion. Investigating why cells behave the way they do during pathology and how we can design drugs or cell-based therapeutics to check them back into line is something I am dedicated to. This award will support my research goals academically and personally. I can't wait to share some exciting updates.

Alexander In

Project: Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound for Insular Neuromodulation in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Research Mentor: Wynn Legon, assistant professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and School of Neuroscience.

In his words: I am thankful to be given this opportunity where I am encouraged to pursue my research project and advance knowledge in hopes of helping those with chronic pain.

Liliana Ladner

Project: Neurovascular markers and inflammatory predictors of traumatic brain injury (TBI) outcomes across the age spectrum.

Research Mentors: Michelle Theus, associate professor, biomedical sciences and pathobiology, co-director Translational Biology Medicine and Health graduate program, and Eric Marvin, assistant professor, surgery, VTCSOM, and neurosurgery, Carilion Clinic.

In her words: Nobody plans to get a traumatic brain injury. Because of this unpredictable nature, I knew that my project would require a commitment to spending the summer in Roanoke, enrolling patients at any hour of the day or night and beginning experimentation on patient samples in the lab. Dr. Schleupner’s donation makes this possible, enabling me to bridge basic and clinical science to improve the lives of TBI patients.

Erin McDaid

Project: Identification of New Therapeutic Targets for Glioblastoma Independent of PI3K.

Research Mentor: Zhi Sheng, assistant professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

In her words: My work with the Sheng lab focuses on discovery of therapeutic targets that could serve as novel treatment options for people with brain cancer. There is a lot of spectacular work being done by my fellow peers. I feel humbled and honored to receive the Schleupner award, and am excited about the work it will allow me to get done, not just this summer, but the domino effect it will create by setting me up to be productive during the busy school year.

Read more about the Charles J. Schleupner endowment.

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