ABRCMS

So I had a great time in Anaheim, California for the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Here is a break down of how everything went:

WEDNESDAY

So we left Alabama at like 7 a.m. and arrived in Dallas/Ft. Worth around 10:45 a.m. During our layover there we saw Eddie George (retired form the Tennessee Titans) just chillin there, so we got a chance to talk to him a bit. We boarded our plane to Los Angeles and arrived there like 3 hours later. This was my first time flying into Los Angeles, and I wasn’t all that impressed. The smog is quite bad, and someone told me that that day was a good day.

We were picked up by the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and shuttled (about 2 hours) to Loma Linda. It is not very often that a lot of students from Oakwood fly to California, so LLU used that opportunity to wine and dine us a bit. We arrived at LLU and we were taken into a little banquet hall. We were greeted by just about every Oakwood graduate that was currently at LLU, which was nice. The Dean of Diversity for the school was talking to us, and she mentioned how LLU is committed to having Oakwood graduates become faculty at their school of medicine, so they are providing full scholarships to those people who are interested in that. The problem they are having is that a lot of Adventists who go to LLU for medical school end up leaving for residency and never coming back. So their hospital and school faculty are beginning to look less and less Adventist, and there are just about no black faculty. So the school is committed to doing this, and she mentioned pointedly that there are several Oakwood students who are applying now that if accepted, would be eligible for that full academic scholarship. So I’m pretty excited about that, and seeing as how LLU is my top choice, I hope I can qualify for that award. We were taken on a tour, in which we toured their patient simulation lab, which is off the hook. They have a lot of manikins that can imitate a host of real life situations in the hospital. I really can’t describe to you how amazing it was, but it just was amazing (check out the pictures to the right and video below). They are actually building a new building that will house the new patient simulation lab, so things are getting even better. We also had an opportunity to tour a couple labs and meeting with the Dean for graduate program at LLU. He was a pretty verbose guy, but he told us something interesting about the MD/PhD program. He told us how basically the program was set up to train researchers who could taken clinical problems and attack them directly using research. Well he told us that it has been an overall failure because many MD/PhD’s end up dropping the PhD part and pursuing their MD, graduating as a MD/PhD and never publishing a paper, and just dropping both all together. He told us that this occurs because the programs are usually set up to depress them. They are start medical school and form bonds, then as soon as the medical students get into their clinical years, the MD/PhD students have to get into the lab. Then once the MD/PhD students finish their research and form many bonds, they have to break all these bonds and go back into hospital, many times forgetting everything they learned in the first 2 years of medical school. He said the problem can be fixed by requiring MD/PhD students to finish their PhD first, and publish a paper, because stats of shown that people that publish papers usually stay the course. Then once they have shown that they can complete a PhD, they will be admitted into the MD program. They have students who have gone through this new program which have published up to 8 papers before they finished their PhD! I think the most important point he made was that MD/PhDs are supposed to be people who love research and just want to have the skills and authority to apply their research clinically. It is not made for those that want to do research and clinical practice 50/50. He was stressing that you have to love research more. Anyway, that really comprised my Wednesday.

THURSDAY

We arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center and went to breakfast, which was pretty good. The keynote speaker for breakfast was a brilliant guy who does research on leptin, a protein secreted by fat. It was really interesting, and he didn’t bore me at all, which is amazing. After his presentation, I went downstairs to set up my poster. I wasn’t really asked any hard questions, and once I was down I shouted for joy, because I would hopefully never have to do research again!!! After the poster session there was an exhibitor session where literally (and I mean literally) every graduate program from every school in the United States was there recruiting. The great thing about conferences is that you get to get a lot of free stuff, so I get plenty of cups, pens, slinkeys, etc. Interesting, the Dean of Diversity for the Vanderbilt School of Medicine was there; remember…the first guy who interviewed me during my interview at Vandy in September? He remembered who I was and he told me that I was a very competitive student, but they had to waitlist me. I’m not 100% sure how to take what he said, because in my brain, if I was very competitive, then I should be in, but its ok. I asked him if there was anything that I could do to improve my chances at Vanderbilt, and he told me to e-mail him that question, so I’ll post what advice he gives me.

At lunch, we had a keynote speaker who is the Dean of Bioethics at UPenn. He talked to us about stem cell research, and he had some interesting arguments. First he argued that using adult stem cells (which is what Bush wants) is not as useful as using embryonic stem cells because adult stem cells are unipotent, meaning that they only develop into what they were taken from. So skin stem cells can only develop into skills cells. Now embryonic stem cells are totipotent, and they can develop into anything you want it to, so it provides opportunities to cure many more diseases. He then argued as to whether killing an embryo is killing a person or a potential person. He argued that it was killing a “potential” person because not all embryos end in producing life; many don’t. Therefore, he argued that since all embryos don’t result in producing viable people, then embryos only produce potential people, not people. He also revealed to us that Bush told us that there over 60 adult stem cell lines that could be used, when actually there are only 6. Also, the 400,000 embryonic stem cell lines that are frozen will be destroyed anyway, so why isn’t Bush getting mad about that. He doesn’t want them killed when they are being researched to possibly save lives, but he doesn’t care if they are destroyed by the fertility clinics, which they will be anyway. He said a lot more, but overall I was convinced that stem cell research is perfectly fine.

 

FRIDAY & SATURDAY

We made our way back to Huntsville, AL. We found out that 4 Oakwood students won awards for their research!!!

MONDAY

Had my interview at Meharry. I’ll post thoughts on it later.

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