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‘Integral component’

Teaching resident doctors to be critical appraisers and consumers of research


By Kelly Foss

A recent Faculty of Medicine event showcased the extensive clinical research taking place in Memorial University’s medical school.

A group of six people stand to either side of a free-standing banner. In the background there is a large screen displaying the head and shoulders of a woman wearing scrubs.
From left are Dr. Sohaib Al-Asaeed, Dr. Scott Bray, Dr. Kieran Vasanthan, Dr. Raleen Murphy, Dr. Laurie Twells and Dr. Carla Coffin. Dr. Stephanie Gill is pictured on screen in the background.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Resident doctors presented the on research work they are undertaking in the divisions of medicine, radiology, laboratory medicine, pediatrics, orthopedic surgery, psychiatry, anesthesia, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine and general surgery during the faculty’s third annual Resident Research Symposium.

“Research and scholarship in academic medicine is a continuum that will lead to better quality evidence and delivery of health care,” said Dr. Dolores McKeen, dean of the faculty. “It is also an integral component of our residency curriculum and residency programs.”

While medical learners need to have hands-on experiences throughout their training, she says research provides opportunities to develop a passion for something in their discipline that inspires curiosity and that they want to learn more about.

Dr. McKeen says that resident research not only creates new knowledge but is an important part of the educational experience.

“It teaches learners how to become critical appraisers and consumers of research,” she said. “When you leave your residency training, you will still have 30 years of practice where you will have to keep up-to-date and understand advances in medicine as you determine best practices, best evidence and translate research into your clinical care.”

She added that she is “incredibly” proud of the work the resident researchers are doing and that it advances medical specialties and improves quality, patient safety and clinical care.

Luck and opportunity

Dr. Carla Coffin, a white woman in her mid 40s, smiles with her arms crossed in front of a white background.
Dr. Carla Coffin
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Carla Coffin (B.Sc.(Hons.)’94; M.Sc.’97; MD’01), the keynote speaker, is a Memorial alumna and is originally from Fogo.

The professor of medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, is an international expert on hepatitis B and hepatitis Delta.

She was integral in establishing the Canadian Hepatitis B Research Network and leads a multidisciplinary research team using the woodchuck hepatitis virus model of hepatitis B to investigate HBV pathogenesis and test new therapies.

“He had an MD and PhD and showed me you could do both.” — Dr. Carla Coffin

She spoke about opportunities and lucky breaks in her life, including the mentorship she received at Memorial, the importance of picking an important health topic to investigate and the teamwork and collaboration which has enabled her to establish her career.

“Another opportunity I had was I went to Memorial,” she said. “People coming from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, who might not necessarily have the connections or upbringing, can still be very successful because we get world-class undergraduate medical education and world-class graduate education. That education puts you on the stage with the rest of the world.”

She continued on to say that she has “always been very proud” to be from Memorial and that one of the key people in her education was her mentor, Prof. Thomas Michalak, a retired professor of molecular virology and medicine (hepatology) at the Faculty of Medicine.

“After I finished my biology degree, I didn’t get into med school on my first try, so I did my master’s with him,” Dr. Coffin said. “That was when I was inspired to be a clinician scientist. Because he had an MD and PhD and showed me you could do both.”

Improving ARVC diagnosis

Dr. Kieran Vasanthan, Discipline of Medicine, took the top prize with his presentation, Longitudinal Electrocardiogram Changes in Patients with ARVC due to TMEM43 p.S358L in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He says one focus of the project is to identify early electrocardiogram changes to help describe the different phenotypical presentations of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) based on different genotypic mutations.

“We are excited about the impact of this project, including the opportunity to provide some contribution to clinical practice guidelines in ARVC.”

Dr. Vasanthan’s group hopes its research will positively impact the diagnosis and early recognition of clinical ARVC, particularly with upcoming updates in clinical practice guidelines.

“I am humbled and grateful to be selected as this year’s winner and would like to acknowledge the support of my supervisor, Dr. Duffett, along with the rest of the research team on this project,” he said.

Dr. Raleen Murphy placed second with Emergency Department Experiences Managing Community Emergency Patients in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Qualitative Study.

Third place winner, Dr. Stephanie Gill presented on Feasibility of a Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy Program for Gastrointestinal and Gynecological Cancer Care in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Scott Bray placed fourth with the Impact of Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms in the Cirrhotic Patient Population: A Retrospective Regional Health Study.

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