Profs, students showcase heart research

The event gave students experience defending research to colleagues.

Beth Hornby

University medical school professors and students – some on the cutting edge of cardiovascular research – displayed their work at the Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Facility on Wednesday.

Kicking off the third annual symposium on preventive medicine and cardiovascular disease, Lillehei Heart Institute administrative director Dee McManus said the event gives students and faculty the opportunity to address the current state of cardiovascular research.

The Lillehei Heart Institute – a cardiovascular research branch of the University Medical School – hosted the symposium, and all interested medical students and professors could present research.

First-year student and Lillehei scholar Joshua Schmitt presented his research on detecting heart failure in the right atrium during transplantation, a common problem he said needs a solution.

Schmitt said the research at the University made it his first choice when he applied to cardiovascular research programs last year.

“We have access to a lot of great research opportunities here,” Schmitt said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with my mentor, Rob Gallegos, who was also a Lillehei scholar, and he’s given me a lot to look forward to with this project.”

Gallegos, a sixth-year surgery resident, also presented and said the program gives people a taste of the groundbreaking cardiovascular research projects at the University.

“One of the poster presentations we have here today is the design for a mechanical heart valve, which would be the only three-leaf heart valve in the world today,” Gallegos said. “It is the probably the first time that a mechanical valve looks and functions like real tissue.”

Medical professor Ron Bach presented his research on deep vein blood clotting, which he said could revolutionize current conceptions of the blood clotting process.

“It is a lot easier and less expensive to prevent a disease than it is to treat it after the fact,” Bach said. “That is the whole purpose of this sort of research.”

Gallegos said the poster presentations are also useful for students – even those with only minor project roles – to learn to defend their work.

“By defending (a research finding), you learn so much more than by passively sitting by and watching the results come in,” Gallegos said.