Med student presentations range from lab experiments to research overseas

Credit: Tracie White research

At the annual Stanford Medical Student Research Symposium, 57 MD and MD/PhD students presented their work in the Stanford Hospital atrium.

The longer a donor heart is kept on ice, the greater the damage to the heart. Joshua Troke, a second- year medical student, wondered what could be done during that time to boost the chances that the donor heart would thrive after the transplant.

At the 26th annual Stanford Medical Student Research Symposium on May 7, Troke was presenting what he hopes could be a solution. He had studied the protective effect of the popular anti-diabetes drug metformin to reduce the damage to donor hearts that occurs while waiting for transplantation. The hearts treated with metformin were faster and stronger and the arteries were more open.

'We're really just priming the cells to survive the injury,' he said, explaining his research to a group of onlookers. 'This has huge implications on heart transplantations and perhaps kidney and liver too.'

Troke, a 28-year-old medical student from Los Angeles, was one of 57 MD and MD/PhD students presenting their research projects in the Stanford Hospital atrium. He and four others received awards for outstanding poster/abstract presentations.

Yet the event was as much about instilling a passion for research as winning a competition. From budding cardiologists to future cancer biologists and international health experts, the crowd of aspiring physicians greeted faculty, staff, judges and fellow students with an in-depth look at their scientific research aimed at improving the health of patients.

'It's significant that this be held in the hospital atrium,' said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the medical school, in an opening address. 'We sometimes forget the link between new knowledge and health.'

The aisles of research projects stretched from clinical research carried out in labs to community health projects conducted both locally and overseas.

Credit: Tracie White research

David Janka explains his work with AIDS patients in Uganda.

Medical student David Janka's poster board showed photos of the faces of Ugandan men with lesions, a side effect of the antiviral drug treatments used to battle AIDS. He spent 10 months in Uganda studying the effects of two different antiviral drug treatment regimens on patients with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, or KS, the most common cancer in the region.

'Sometimes the immune response to these drugs in patients with KS is so robust you see reactions like this,' said Janka, 26, of North Carolina, pointing to the photos. 'Hopefully, this study could influence policy so that when an AIDS patients comes in for treatment they say, 'Hey, this patients has KS.' And take it into consideration when a drug regimen is chosen.'

Medical student Sepideh Saber, 27, of Germany, presented her poster board, which described her experiment with the bioengineering of flexor tendons. She conducted her work with rabbits with the hope that it could someday be of benefit to Iraqi War veterans and other patients who have lost the use of their arms due to tendon injuries. 'I've seen patients who have no tendons at all,' Saber said. 'Their arms are completely useless. Due to the success of our study, we're now trying the same model in humans.'

Research is a key element of the educational process for medical students at Stanford, said Laurence Baker, MD, professor of health research policy and director of the scholarly concentrations program. Much of the research exhibited at the symposium was funded by Stanford's Medical Scholars Research Program.

'We want our students to be leaders in science, society and medicine,' Baker said. 'We're working to train the next generation of leaders in research, research that can be used to make a difference in people's lives.'

Credit: Tracie White research

Sepideh Saber presents her effort with the bioengineering of flexor tendons.

Five medical students win awards for outstanding research presentations

Five students received awards for outstanding poster/abstract presentations from the 26th annual Medical Student Research Symposium. The students and their mentors will be honored at a dinner on May 19, hosted by the Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association. They are:

Carlene Chun,'Longitudinal investigation of cancer biomarker expression levels pre- and post- chemo-radio therapy treatment using multiplexed proximity ligation assays.' Albert Koong, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology

Geoff Krampitz, 'Adventitial VEGF signaling is critical for restenosis after vascular injury.' Ching-Pin Chang, MD, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine.

Steven Lin,'Stopping a silent killer in the underserved Asian community: A novel liver cancer prevention clinic.' Frank Trinh, MD, postdoctoral medical fellow.

Joshua Troke,'The use of metformin as a cardioprotective agent in heart transplantation decreases ischemia-reperfusion injury and increases graft function and survival.' Michael Fischbein, MD, PhD, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery.

Gavitt Woodard, 'Altered alcohol metabolism following Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass.' John Morton, MD, associate professor of general surgery.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

COVID-19 Updates

Stanford Medicine is closely monitoring the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). A dedicated page provides the latest information and developments related to the pandemic.

Leading In Precision Health

Stanford Medicine is leading the biomedical revolution in precision health, defining and developing the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive and precise.