Originally published October 4, 2016
By Jacob Hernandez
Junior, Biological Sciences
This past summer I had the privilege of attending a research internship at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. I was matched with a mentor and given the opportunity to assist her on the many studies she was overseeing. The program also consisted of attending a journal club, where each week one of my peers would present on their mentors’ previous work, giving us the opportunity to learn about the many different subsets of research going on in pulmonary medicine. These presentations would also include part of our current projects, which we were all able to present on the last day of the program during the Hopkins C.A.R.E.S. summer symposium, where all the different Hopkins Medicine interns met to present their research.
The program also gave us opportunities to sit in on M.D., Ph.D., and M.D.-Ph.D. panels, where we learned how to apply to these various programs at Johns Hopkins and the many requirements we would need to fulfill before applying. During the 10 weeks, I worked under Nadia Hansel, M.D., an associate professor of medicine whose research interests are genetic and environmental determinants of obstructive airway diseases. This gave me enough time to learn immense information about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, obesity and immunology.
I worked primarily with a research assistant, who taught me how to analyze large amounts of data taken from multiple clinical studies using Stata, an advanced software for data analysis. I was able to help with clinic visits for the multiple studies led by Dr. Hansel. I asked participants certain questions about their health to see if they were eligible to join the study.
The study I focused on was based on a large database with information from thousands of participants with COPD. Analyzing the data, we were able to find an association between levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) and the amount of COPD exacerbations. Subjects with IgA concentrations below the 5th percentile in the cohort had a significantly higher exacerbation rate. These results suggest that patients with COPD and frequent exacerbations should be considered for evaluation of IgA deficiency.
I couldn’t have had this experience if it weren’t for the many great professors I have had these past two years at UTEP, who prepared me heavily for the internship. I plan to graduate in two years with a B.S. in biological sciences and matriculate to an M.D.-Ph.D. program.