Northwestern teams compete and win at Mayo symposium

Rob Karwath | April 19, 2017

In the first year that Northwestern took part in the IMPACT Symposium at the Mayo Clinic, seven student teams competed and one team won for its presentation on links between Type 2 diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer.

Northwestern students win at Mayo symposium

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The first time was the charm for Northwestern Health Sciences University students participating in the Mayo Clinic and Regenerative Medicine Minnesota IMPACT Symposium.

Seven teams of Northwestern post-baccalaureate, pre-health students competed with more than 70 teams of undergraduates from across Minnesota in the contest, which seeks creative solutions to critical health-care questions through collaboration between students and Mayo researchers.

In mid-April, one of the Northwestern teams was announced as the winner for its presentation on the possible link between Type 2 diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer.

For their victory, the team of Kaitlin Chrastek, Jagneet Kaur, Rupinder Kaur and Salar Kadhium each will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Each also will have the opportunity to accept a paid research internship at Mayo Clinic this summer within the Center for Individualized Medicine.

This was the first year that any Northwestern students had participated in IMPACT, said Jason Thoen, the faculty contest coordinator who is an associate professor and chair of Northwestern’s Natural Sciences Department.

“The students, to a large degree, were on their own to sink or swim, based on their own abilities,” Thoen said. “They could get some support from our faculty advisers. But because so much of this was their effort in the first year we had competed, we are feeling amazed and quite proud that so many teams took part and that a team from Northwestern won.”

He added: “These students all have received their bachelor’s degrees already, but they are still taking undergraduate coursework. Most of them want to go to medical school.”

Northwestern President and CEO Chris Cassirer said the university was pleased by the strong student interest in and performance at IMPACT.

“We’re training the next generation of health-care leaders, and this is a competition that attracts the best and brightest students,” he said. “We’re honored to be a part of IMPACT and proud of all of our students who participated.”

IMPACT is sponsored by Mayo Clinic and Regenerative Medicine Minnesota. Each of the 70 teams was asked to develop a novel answer to questions about subjects including: the underlying cause of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, pancreatic cancer’s link to Type 2 diabetes and obesity, and surgical education approaches to improve patient outcomes following hernia repair surgery.

The teams researched biomedical literature, developed hypotheses, submitted written reports and participated in poster presentations at the March 18 competition on the Mayo campus in Rochester, MN. Some groups were invited to provide oral presentations.

“All of our students found the experience extremely valuable and rewarding,” Thoen said. “It was a great opportunity for them to present to the experts at Mayo.”

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