Medical Research Takes Center Stage


    GRAND RAPIDS — How do tonsillectomy methods affect post-operative pain? Does one medication get certain patients out of the hospital faster than another? Is testing every toddler in the federally funded Women, Infants and Children nutritional program for iron deficiency worth the cost? What factors increase the risk of stress fractures among female runners on cross-country teams at Michigan colleges?

    Those are among the dozens of research topics presented last week at the Grand Rapids Medical and EducationResearchCenter’s annual Research Day at

    DeVos Place

    . Medical professionals and students offered original research and case studies that they hope will shed a little more light on patient care.

    “We hope it will help the patients in the long run,” said Dr. Raj Desgupta, a 2006 graduate of MichiganStateUniversity’s College of Human Medicine.

    Desgupta is a California native who heads to New York City this summer for a three-year, pulmonary critical care fellowship at ColumbiaUniversity. He is also an enthusiastic researcher who had a hand in a dozen presentations last week. He has twice presented research at the national level, a résumé lift he is sure helped him land his fellowship.

    “I think that you’ve got to love it,” Desgupta said of research. “It helps you be a more well-rounded doctor altogether.”

    GRMERC is a consortium founded in 1999 by MichiganStateUniversity, Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care and GrandValleyStateUniversity. MetroHealthHospital and FerrisStateUniversity are affiliate members. Its activities include coordinating residency programs, continuing education and medical research — particularly the many projects students must produce as part of their degree requirements.

    For example, Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School graduate Megan Mroczkowski, a third-year MSU medical student who is considering pediatrics or obstetrics, joined four fellow students and an advisor in presenting their research on iron deficiency blood tests that are given to all 1-year-olds in the WIC program who are seen at a clinic at Spectrum Health’s DeVos Children’s Hospital.

    “What we were thinking was a lot of them in the WIC program either receive iron-fortified formula or are breastfeeding,” Mroczkowski said. “Our hypothesis is there is no need for the CBC (complete blood count, a test that includes measures of iron) because they are not iron deficient.”

    Was that hypothesis borne out? Mroczkowski said out of 127 cases studied, 10 babies turned out to be anemic, lacking the proper level of iron in their blood. She said the research, which was required for a class, is continuing.

    It was her first time presenting research to a large audience. “I’m nervous and excited, both,” she said.

    That sentiment was echoed by another medical student, Carolina Quezada, a California native who, with two residents and an attending physician, presented a case study of the diagnosis of a man who suffered kidney disease as a complication of HIV infection.

    “Every time I talk about it, I have to take a breath,” she said.

    There are lessons to be learned from the unique case, said Quezada, who took on the project as an extra-learning opportunity. Among her points: Test for HIV infection in high-risk patients, even if they’ve had previous negative results; and more information is needed to help doctors decide when a renal biopsy is needed.

    Alan Davis, GRMERC’s interim director of research, said, “We’ve got a whole smorgasbord” of presenters and topics, with nearly 120 presentations and displays involving more than 100 doctors, medical students, and students in physician assistant, pharmacy and physical therapy programs. Funding for the projects comes from the Spectrum Health Foundation, Saint Mary’s Health Care’s Doran Foundation or other sources, Davis said.

    “It’s a wide range,” he said. “In some cases, it is required by the residency. Some of the medical student projects are required by the College of Human Medicine at MSU. In other cases, they may be trying to get into a competitive fellowship or residency and trying to beef up their résumés.

    “A good number of these are going on to either regional or national presentations,” he added. “This is kind of a trial run for them. The ultimate goal is to get as many published or into print as possible.”

    And for Desgupta, the proof of research’s value comes in putting the information to everyday use.

    “Hopefully, it will influence our decision-making when we’re thinking about quality of care and patient outcomes,” he said. “Research may not be the most glamorous or fun thing you do on a weekend. I definitely want people to know you can do research that truly affects people at the bedside.”    

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