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Published November 27, 2023
The Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program, located in the University of Wyoming’s College of Health Sciences, recently hosted its fifth annual research symposium at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie.
Medical students in the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program are required to complete research projects during the summer between their first and second years of medical school. They then must present their summer projects at the research symposium during their second year.
Thirteen students took part in the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) this past summer. During a four-week rotation, each student worked side by side with a primary care physician in a rural or urban underserved community.
While at their RUOP sites, students also were expected to complete an abbreviated community health assessment to identify both community assets and public health issues. They presented posters on these assessments at the research symposium.
Emily Schmitt, WWAMI research adviser and UW Division of Kinesiology and Health assistant professor, notes the efforts of the medical students in preparing their research for the symposium.
“The students worked very hard over the last few months compiling their research into poster presentations, and we were thrilled to be able to showcase all of their hard work at our annual research symposium,” Schmitt says. “We also are extremely thankful for the community partners, physicians and scientists who dedicated their time to mentor students throughout their projects.”
McKenzie Stampfli, from Cheyenne, completed her research project in Rawlins, working with Dr. Gary Mikesell, a family medicine physician specializing in hormone therapy and osteopathic manipulation.
“I chose my community-based project because, while I was in Rawlins, I saw many older adult patients come into the clinic with a lack of understanding of their medications, no advance directives, fall risks, etc., and Carbon County has a higher 65-plus population at 18.9 percent versus the U.S. at 17.3 percent,” Stampfli says. “I provided information in the form of a pamphlet for patients on each of the 4Ms (what matters, medication, mentation and mobility) that are questions they should ask their provider.”
Completing his RUOP research at Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning, Mont., Cale Hinkle, from Lander, focused his interest on working in Native American health settings.
Speaking to the benefits of working alongside a health care professional with similar interests, Hinkle says, “Dr. Andrew Langfield is compassionate about providing high-quality health care to rural communities, especially those that have been traditionally underserved and underresourced. His work inspires me to do the same, especially in Native American communities.”
Langfield serves as a physician specializing in the field of hospitalist -- caring for patients who are currently hospitalized.
At the same time, five students took part in a second area of research called Scholarship of Discovery (SoD). This empirical research examines new discoveries made through original investigation under a principal investigator. The study may take the form of a basic laboratory study; a survey; a secondary analysis of an existing dataset; a chart review; a qualitative study; or a prospective clinical trial.
Madeleine Prince, of Cheyenne, did her SoD research at the Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) Rheumatology Department. Her focus of interest was the prediagnostic course of pediatric patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
“During the summer, I also participated virtually in all of the SCH rheumatology team meetings,” Prince says. “When I visited Seattle Children’s Hospital in person, through a generous research scholarship given to Wyoming-WWAMI students, I was able to shadow at SCH’s outpatient nephrology and rheumatology clinics. I will be attending the American College of Rheumatology’s conference through a scholarship I received for medical students from underserved areas.”
Noting the support Prince received from the physician she worked with at SCH, Prince says, “I worked with Dr. Jordan Roberts, a pediatric rheumatologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Roberts made herself available to me over email and video call all hours of the day and night and advocated for me to receive the Choose Rheumatology-Workforce Expansion Scholarship for medical students from rural and underserved areas. Dr. Roberts also reached out to her colleagues to find me an in-person mentor for my trip out to SCH, then welcomed my husband and me into her home for dinner during that same trip. When it came time to make my poster, she worked patiently with me through many drafts and edits, using each as a learning experience.”
On an international front, Heidi Taggart, of Jackson, spent over eight weeks in Dhulikhel, Nepal, through the Global Health Immersion Program (GHIP). The purpose of GHIP is to give students a chance to witness the practice of medicine in a resource-limited setting; to assess the health needs of the local community; and to develop health-promotion projects within the host communities. Taggart also presented her project at the research symposium.
Asked how they would describe the benefits of conducting research in these various WWAMI programs, all current medical students note the great experiences they had while doing their research.
“Aside from the community project, the best thing about RUOP was getting hands-on clinical experience,” Stampfli says. “After a whole year of learning clinical skills, RUOP gave me a great opportunity to practice these skills day in and day out.”
“The Scholarship of Discovery program gave me an incredible research and shadowing experience over the summer between my MS1 and MS2 years,” Prince says. “Performing most of my research from home allowed me the flexibility to participate in family obligations while still taking part in this priceless learning experience with a team of pediatric experts at the top of their field.”
The 2023 Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program Research Symposium awardees are:
Madeleine Prince -- Top SoD Project.
Franklin Powell and Thomas Robitaille -- Top Community-Engaged Projects.
In a separate award category, members of the public attending the event were invited to choose their favorite research poster by popular vote. Caleb Hoopes won the People’s Choice Award.
WWAMI medical students, listed by hometown and research presentation title, are:
Big Horn -- Andrew Quinn, “Spinal Tumor Surgery for Metastatic Cancer: Complete vs. Partial Resection and Treatment”; and Andrew White, “Heavy Alcohol Use and Binge-Drinking in Douglas, Wyoming.”
Casper -- Thomas Robitaille, “Fighting Media with Media: Addressing the Youth Mental Health Crisis in Gillette, Wyoming, by Meeting Them Where They’re At.”
Cheyenne -- Madeleine Prince, “Assessing Barriers to Diagnosis Among Children with Pediatric Lupus”; and McKenzie Stampfli, “Age Friendly Healthcare in Rawlins, Wyoming.”
Cody -- Trent Bronnenberg, "Analysis of Biologic Therapies in Pregnancy with Maternal Rhematologic Disease"; Aaron Erickson, “Community Awareness and Intervention Prompts for Hemorrhage Control in Powell, Wyoming”; Brayden Feusner, “Addressing Alcoholism in Cody, Wyoming”; and Galen Tribble, “Utilizing an Infographic to Increase Human Papillomavirus Vaccination in Evanston, Wyoming.”
Jackson -- Franklin Powell, “Assessing general opioid literacy and awareness of high school students in Hot Springs County, Wyoming (Hot Springs Health, Thermopolis, Wyoming)”; and Heidi Taggart, “Enhancing Post-Stroke Outcomes Through Direct Patient Education in Dhulikhel, Nepal.”
Lander -- Ross Cook, “Community-Provided Fentanyl Test Strips: A Legal, Cheap and Easy Harm Reduction Program for Sheridan, Wyoming”; Cale Hinkle, “Building Trust in Providers Through Biographies on the Blackfeet Reservation”; and Casey Pikla, “Increasing Bystander Naloxone Distribution on Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation.”
Lovell -- Hyrum Hopkin, “Improving Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health in Sundance, Wyoming.”
Powell -- Jenni Ebersberger, “Hepatitis C Care Continuum Among People Who Inject Drugs in King County, Wash.”; and Hannah Mills, “Addressing Teenage Pregnancy in Torrington, Wyoming.”
Sheridan -- Caleb Hoopes, “Characterizing Right Ventricle Function in Physiologically Aged Male Mice.”
Thermopolis -- Shayna Bauer, “Enhancing Health Literacy and Promoting Preventive Medicine Among the Geriatric Community in Buffalo, Wyoming.”
About WWAMI Medical Education
WWAMI Medical Education -- Wyoming’s medical school -- is a partnership between the University of Wyoming and the University of Washington School of Medicine. WWAMI Medical Education reserves 20 seats each year for qualified Wyoming residents. Students accepted to the program spend 18 months on the University of Wyoming campus. The third and fourth years are spent at selected clinical sites throughout the WWAMI region.
About UW’s College of Health Sciences
UW’s College of Health Sciences trains health and wellness professionals and researchers in a wide variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, speech-language pathology, social work, kinesiology, public health, health administration and disability studies. The college also oversees residency and fellowship programs in Casper and Cheyenne, as well as operating a speech/hearing clinic in Laramie and primary care clinics in Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne.
With more than 1,600 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, the college is dedicated to training the health and wellness workforce of Wyoming and conducting high-quality research and community engagement, with a particular focus on rural and frontier populations.