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School of Medicine discoveries

May 30, 2017

Aspiring vascular surgeons bring research to national stage

Class of 2020's Meg Reeves at national VSIG conference

M2 Meg Reeves presents her research poster at the Society for Vascular Surgery’s annual meeting. She was one of eight students from the medical school whose work was presented at the national conference.

In less than two years since its founding, the Vascular Surgery Interest Group at VCU is already making its mark on the national scene. Eight students had their original research presented at the Society for Vascular Surgery’s annual meeting, held May 30-June 3 in San Diego.

“We had the most medical student presenters of any institution,” says VSIG faculty adviser Michael Amendola, M’02, H’07, F’09, associate professor of surgery, VCU School of Medicine.

The Class of 2020’s Meg Reeves was among the student presenters. President of VSIG at VCU and a Rebecca Clary Harris M.D. Endowment Fund scholarship recipient, she presented at the moderated poster session.

“As a medical student who just recently completed my first year of school, this was my first conference (let alone national conference), first time presenting my research, first time to California — a whole lot of firsts,” she wrote in a blog for VSIG’s website. “But it was also an incredible learning experience.”

Amendola worked one-on-one with each student who had his or her poster presented at the national meeting. He also coordinated with Jeanine D. Guidry, who recently earned her Ph.D. from the medical school’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy and with whom he has ongoing research projects. As part of their collaboration, each student created recordings explaining his or her research project.

The students then included a code on their posters that meeting attendees could scan with their phones and listen to the audio recording, allowing them to hear about the research in the student’s own words (even if the student wasn’t present). VCU was the only school at the meeting to incorporate such an interactive technology.

Exposing students to vascular surgery and research opportunities early in their medical school careers is critical, Amendola says, as more integrated residencies require students to decide on a surgical specialty when they enter the residency match process in their fourth year of medical school.

“I want them to make the right career choice,” Amendola says. “It’s important that clinical faculty get involved very early on. It’s essential to the students’ development as scientists and physicians so they can make informed decisions related to their career choice.”

That’s where VSIG at VCU comes in, helping to connect students with vascular surgeons who can serve as mentors and answer questions about the field. Other chapter priorities include educational seminars, research and community outreach. The chapter’s success led to an invitation for Amendola to speak at this year’s annual meeting encouraging other medical students from around the country to start their own VSIG organizations.

“We are fortunate in the School of Medicine to have dedicated faculty who understand the value of sharing their wisdom and experience with the next generation of physicians,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., Dean of Medicine.

Amendola credits the organization’s grassroots beginnings — it was the brainchild of Grayson Pitcher, M’16, during his fourth year — for its popularity.

“It’s grown out of student interest,” he says. “All I’ve done is fanned the flame. These are students who do great work. It’s fun to mentor them.”

More information about VSIG at VCU is available on the organization’s website, where students post podcasts, blogs, research and other news for aspiring vascular surgeons on the MCV Campus and across the nation.

By Polly Roberts