Student Research Day presentation

Douglas Robinson (left), an M.D./Ph.D. SOGSR student, was a tie winner in the Senior Ph.D. category. His winning entry was: PENTAZOCINE, A MIXED-ACTION K OPIOID RECEPTOR AGONIST, PRODUCES ANTINOCICEPTION IN THE RAT: DIFFERENTIAL DOSE RESPONSE IN THE MALE AND FEMALE.

Deans and speaker

Left to right: Charles P. Mouton, M.D., M.S., Senior Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine; Keynote Speaker, Goldie Byrd, Ph.D. '86, School of Graduate Studies and Research; J. Randall Byrd, M.S. '82, M.D. '82, School of Graduate Studies and Research and School of Medicine and Maria F. Lima, Ph.D. Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Research. Dr. J. Randall Byrd is the husband of Dr. Goldie Byrd and was the overall Student Research Day winner in 1980.

58th Annual Student Research Day Rewards Hard-working Meharry Scholars

After long, arduous weeks, months and even years put in by Meharry students as they hurried to get their posters completed, the overall winner of the 58th Annual Student Research Day is Ph.D. candidate, Leah D. Banks. Banks’ presentation is titled: OLIVE OIL RENDERS A PROTECTIVE EFFECT AGAINST BENZO(A)PYRENE (BAP)-INDUCED COLON CANCER THROUGH ALTERED BAP BIOTRANSFORMATION. This year’s Student Research Day was the largest in its history with 155 submissions.

Meharry Medical College was one of the first medical schools to hold a student research day. Meharry's first, in 1956, was held in connection with its 80th anniversary.

Dr. Charles W. Johnson founded the program and Dr. Landry E. Burgess was its first chairman. Upon Dr. Burgess’ retirement, Dr. James A. Pulliam assumed the chair and held it until his death in January 1991. That year, the Student Research Day Committee unanimously voted to name the student research day lecture the James A. Pulliam Memorial Lecture. All students, residents and post-doctoral fellows in the Schools of Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine and Graduate Studies and Research are invited to participate in the Annual Student Research Day.

Banks, a native of Vacaville, California, is a School of Graduate Studies and Research (SOGSR) 2015 Ph.D. candidate with emphasis on biochemistry and cancer biology. She said it took her almost two years gathering and organizing her data which culminated in her win on March 12, 2014. A 2006 graduate of Dillard University, New Orleans, receiving a degree in biology, Banks began her curriculum at the SOGSR in 2009.

Before coming to Meharry, Banks did a post baccalaureate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. It was there she met a student who was then enrolled at Meharry’s SOGSR studying neuroscience. This student made a major influence in Banks’ decision to consider Meharry as part of her continuing education.

After her post bac, Banks met Evangeline Motley-Johnson, Ph.D., professor of physiology at Meharry’s School of Medicine and associate dean of the SOGSR, at an Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Dr. Motley spoke with her about the various programs at Meharry, its mission and the caring environment. This sealed the deal and Banks put Meharry on her career path. “It was divine intervention,” said Banks. “Between meeting my friend at Virginia Tech and speaking with Dr. Motley, I was destined to become a Meharrian.”

As soon as she arrived at Meharry, Banks knew she had made the right choice. “All of my professors are insightful and nurturing,” she said. “My presentation today is very much a part of my PI (Aramandla Ramesh, Ph.D., associate professor in biochemistry and cancer biology, Meharry, School of Medicine). He always encourages me and is open and receptive to my ideas.”

Banks doesn’t leave out the “awesome” Maria F. Lima, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research, when talking about how far she has come. “Dean Lima gets it, she cares about all of us,” said Banks. “She wants us to succeed in the classroom and beyond and reminds us that we are capable of doing great things.”

Dean Lima is understandably proud of her students and commented, “They are accomplishing achievements in research that will be instrumental, worldwide, in health disparities, community engagement, public health and molecular medicine.”

Goldie Byrd, Ph.D., School of Graduate Studies and Research, Class of 1986 and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University, was the keynote speaker at the James A. Pulliam Memorial Lecture Awards Ceremony. Her topic was: African-American Alzheimer's Disease Genetics and Community Engagement.


List of other winners:

School of Graduate Studies and Research, Senior Ph.D. Students

First Place
Frederick Harris, Ph.D. student
“ACBP Mediates Beta Oxidation Required for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Growth and Survival”

Second Place (TIE)
Douglas Robinson, M.D./Ph.D. student
“Pentazocine, a Mixed-Action K Opioid Receptor Agonist, Produces Antinociception in the Rat: Differential Dose Response in the Male and Female”


Jane Mantey, Ph.D. student
“Colon Carcinogenesis Induced by Benzo(a)Pyrene in the APCMin Mouse Model”

Third Place
Andrea Flores, M.D./Ph.D. student
Use of Dendra2 to Monitor degradation of the Transcription Factor NRF2 in Promyelocytic Leukemia-Nuclear Bodies (PML-NBS) in Living Cells


School of Graduate Studies and Research, Ph.D. Students 1st and 2nd year

First Place
Thomas Hodo
“Immune Modulation and Possible Anti-Tumor Activation of Lymphocytes by Neurotransmitters”

Second Place
Dominique Dotson
“Involvement of Filamin A in VPU Mediated Enhancement of HIV-1 Release”
Third Place
Jeremy Sprouse
“Estrogen-Dependent, Sex-Specific Modulation of Trigeminal Nociception by Selective Activation of Kappa Opioid Receptor (KOR) Using an Operant Conditioning Paradigm”  


School of Graduate Studies and Research, MSPH Students

First Place
Meardith Pooler
“The Population Health Model and County Health Rankings: Using the County Health Rankings to Evaluate the Explanatory Power of the Population Health Modeling in 10 Southern United States”

Second Place
Jennifer Todd
“Racial Disparities in Ovarian Cancer Time to Treatment and their Impact on Survival”

Third Place
Nyoka Rogers
“Investigating the Variables that Contribute to Why African American Men Put Off Receiving Medical Care”


School of Medicine

First Place
Johnson Wong
“The Impact of Exit Criteria on the Incidence of Early Morbidity Following Pediatric Cardiac Surgery”

Second Place (TIE)
Sonya Keshti
“Carboxyl Terminal Domain of PCSK9: Role in the Regulation of LDLR in Liver and Kidney Cells


Brandon Holbert
“Identifying a Novel Isoform of the AZIN1 Gene by Combining High-Throughput Sequencing Technology with Traditional Sequencing Methods”

Third Place
Marche Smith
“Assessing Behavioral Change Among Parent-Child Dyads of a Pediatric Obesity Prevention Study”


School of Dentistry

First Place
Rian Cho
“Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan: Correlation among Facial Injuries, Biomarkers and Health Disparities: A Systematic Review”

Second Place
Kirk McDonald
“Sophomore Student Evaluation of the “Wave One” Technique in Pre-Clinical Endodontics”