NWHSU students win honors in IMPACT contest

For the third consecutive year, students from Northwestern Health Sciences University took home honors in the prestigious Mayo Clinic IMPACT Program competition.

A team of NWHSU post-baccalaureate, pre-health students won the best poster award for explaining their hypothesis for a health issue that is the subject of ongoing research. The annual spring competition, held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, included about 70 teams from Minnesota and other Midwestern states.

The winning NWHSU team was one of seven student teams from the university that competed.

“All of the students did a nice job in terms of presenting a novel approach to the issue,” said Susan Lawrenz-Smith, an assistant professor who served as the faculty adviser for the teams. “They did excellent work and represented our university well.”

A team of four NWHSU students won the best poster award at the Mayo Clinic IMPACT Program competition. Members of the winning team are, from left: Ahminata Bah, Klondy Canales, Elizabeth Pasch and Ricardo Becerra-Ruiz. All are post-baccalaureate, pre-health students seeking to continue their studies in health care fields.

IMPACT, which stands for Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies, is sponsored by the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at Mayo Clinic. Students competed by offering hypotheses for the underlying causes of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that remains the subject of intense scientific scrutiny.

The students researched medical literature, developed hypotheses, submitted written proposals and participated in poster presentations. The annual contest is one of the premier competitions for post- baccalaureate, pre-health students nationwide.

The members of the winning NWHSU team were: Ahminata Bah, Ricardo Becerra-Ruiz, Klondy Canales and Elizabeth Pasch. All are post-baccalaureate students seeking to further their studies before entering health care fields.

“There is so much value for the students to participate in this competition,” Lawrenz-Smith said. “One benefit is simply working in a group. The students bring different views and challenge each other. That is important because all of our students want to go into health care, and our field is more team-driven these days. Very few doctors or other health professionals work by themselves. Our students learn how, firsthand, to work in a team setting by participating in IMPACT.”

Lawrenz-Smith added: “Working together and seeing other people’s ideas also makes the students stronger. They think, ‘How do I bring all this information together and review it? How do I go through the information in a constructively critical way?’ That is an important skill. Health providers are bombarded every day by a lot of information—people’s experiences, scientific research and news developments, just to name a few. Bringing lots of information together and thinking about it to come to a conclusion is one of the most important skills for our students as they move on in their careers.”

Lawrenz-Smith thanked Lisa Oppegard, an assistant professor at NWHSU, who also supported the student teams and helped with their presentations in Eau Claire.

“The competition was one of those moments where it was hard for us to express the depth of pride we have for our students,” Lawrenz-Smith said. “Our students handled themselves with such maturity and poise.”

By Rob Karwath for Northwestern Health Sciences University

Seven teams of students from Northwestern Health Sciences University competed recently in the Mayo Clinic IMPACT Program competition, one of the most prestigious contests nationwide for pre-medicine and pre-health students. For the third consecutive year, NWHSU brought home honors from the contest.