Howard Hosts NIH Director for Health Sciences Research Day

Graduate students, faculty members and researchers from across the medical community gathered in the Louis B. Stokes Health Sciences Library Friday, April 13 ,for the Second Annual Health Sciences Research Day at Howard University.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), was the keynote speaker. NIH annually gives out billions in research grants, making it the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. NIH basic research has prompted a revolution in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.
Photo Credit: Photographs by Malcolm Maurice, Howard University

By Cheylin Parker, Health Sciences

WASHINGTON (April 16) -- The National Institutes for Health (NIH) is committed to funding more research at historically black colleges and universities.  It is also working to improve diversity in the medical work force.

Those were the words of NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in his keynote address to the University’s Health Sciences community Friday, April 13, in the Louis B. Stokes Health Sciences Library during the second annual Health Sciences Research Day.

"NIH is interested in looking at how we can answer questions about disparities and many other clinical questions," Collins said. 

The NIH has not succeeded in bringing in diverse students and that is why events such as Research Day at Howard are important, he said.

NIH, which gives out billions of dollars annually for projects around the globe, is the world’s largest funder of biomedical research.  Its support of basic research and translation advances has prompted a revolution in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease.

Much of the research done at Howard University is funded by grants from the NIH and much of this research was presented at this year’s Research Day.

Faculty, graduate students, post-doctorates, residences and researchers throughout Howard University gathered together to present their scientific research.  

The wide array of research topics included DNA recognition, race and colon cancer disparities, obesity and sleep in relation to African-Americans and the effects of nicotine.

The all-day event included a poster session, oral presentations, a reception and an award ceremony.

During the poster session, judges from the surrounding colleges and universities evaluated each participant’s display.

Peter Ogunbiyi, Ph.D., a judge for this year’s Research Day, said a presentation that is clear, concise and conveys a message well is a winner.

"I look for clarity," Ogunbiyi said. "Is the approach and methodology authentic? Do you effectively communicate what you’re trying to do?"

At the end of the poster session, the judges turned in their forms to the organizers. The organizers than tallied up the scores and chose winners for several different categories including seniors, juniors, faculty, graduate students, residences and post-doctorates, and professional students.

Qortni Lang, a second-year medical student at Howard University, participated in the poster session and in oral presentations. Her abstract was one of the 136 abstracts submitted and accepted for Research Day this year.

"I wasn’t too nervous," Lang said. "I was excited to share my findings. I would love to win an award."

Lang’s scientific research focused on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young adult African Americans who live in stressful environments. Her findings revealed that African Americans living in stressful environments are at risk for chronic medical conditions and irregular sleep patterns.

"This project looked at PTSD and the immune system," Lang said. "We found that people who had PTSD for a longer time had more inflammation in the immune system."

Patrice Smith-Rios, a second-year dental student at Howard University, focused her research on oral cavity and pharynx cancer, specifically MiR-125b, a microRNA that can regulate a gene that promotes cancer. She said her findings revealed that MiR-125b might be a potential aid in treatment for this type of cancer.

"The poster was the easy part," Smith-Rios said. "The research was the hard part. There’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of things failed until you found something promising."

Presenters spent anywhere from a few months to years on their research.

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