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Summer fellowship program matches undergraduates with School of Medicine researchers

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Six undergraduate students who show promise in biomedical research are completing summer fellowships at the University of Kansas Medical Center through the Parker B. Francis Summer Fellowship Program. Four of those students are in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Now in its third year, the program matches undergraduate students with mentors in the departments of Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the KU School of Medicine. During the study period, which lasts eight to 12 weeks, fellows work on research projects relevant to pulmonary diseases. The program is funded by the Francis Family Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo.-based philanthropic organization that supports pulmonary research.

The program is open to undergraduate students who have a grade point average of 3.0 or better, have completed college-level introductory courses in chemistry and biology, and plan to pursue a career in medicine or science. The six 2014 fellows are undergraduate students who attend the University of Kansas and Baker University. The fellows presented summaries of their research projects to School of Medicine faculty on July 31.

"It is most rewarding for me to see the sense of accomplishment in the fellows at the end of summer, and it is exciting to see their enthusiasm as they apply the knowledge they gained working as a part of a research team with faculty members, medical students and fellows," said Navneet Dhillon, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at KU and the on-site adviser of the fellowship program. "This research exposure will surely help them in gravitating towards medical research careers."

Dhillon is the senior author of a recent paper on the role of intravenous drug use in the development of HIV-related pulmonary arterial hypertension. Two fellows who worked with Dhillon in 2013 are contributing authors.

Bristol Brandt, a 2012 fellow, is now a second-year medical student at KU. Last fall, she presented research abstracts related to her Parker B. Francis Summer Fellowship research at the 2013 national meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians. She is the first author of a paper identifying severe sepsis published in the American Journal of Medical Quality.

The senior author of the sepsis study, Steven Simpson, M.D., professor of medicine and acting director of KU's Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine, has mentored two Parker B. Francis Summer Fellows. "Working with students of such high caliber and having the students develop into talented young researchers is one of the more rewarding things I have done in my own career," he said.

Tess Hoerle, a 2014 fellow, worked on a smoking cessation study led by Edward Ellerbeck, M.D., M.P.H., Sosland Family Professor and Chair of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. "She has quickly become a valuable, contributing member of the research team," Ellerbeck said of Hoerle. "She is a great self-starter and has learned a lot about both tobacco control and research methods."

The 2014 fellows are as follows (College majors are in bold):

Jeffrey Appelbaum, junior in human biology, Leawood, University of Kansas. Appelbaum's mentor is Faris Farassati, Ph.D., Pharm.D., associate professor of medicine.

Jamison Montes de Oca, Lawrence, Baker University. Mentored by Navneet Dhillon.

Bahar Barani, junior in pre-medicine, Overland Park, University of Kansas. Mentored by Rajasingh Johnson, M.Phil., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine.

Tess Hoerle, spring 2014 graduate with B.A. in human biology, Eden Prairie, Minn., University of Kansas. Mentored by Edward Ellerbeck.

Tamara Konstantinova, junior in anthropology and biology, Overland Park, University of Kansas. Mentored by Dhillon.

Elise Foley, Salina, University of Kansas. Mentored by Steven Simpson.

About the Francis Family Foundation: The Francis Family Foundation has provided more than 800 postdoctoral fellowships for M.D.s and Ph.D.s working in areas related to lung diseases at U.S. and Canadian universities since 1976. The foundation also supports educational and cultural programs located throughout the greater Kansas City area.