NWHSU PBPH students win awards in Mayo IMPACT Symposium second year in a row

Rob Karwath for NWHSU | April 27, 2018

For the second consecutive year, students at Northwestern Health Sciences University won awards in the prestigious IMPACT Program competition at Mayo Clinic.

Two teams of Northwestern post-baccalaureate, pre-health students placed second and third in the annual competition, which this year included 55 undergraduate teams from across Minnesota. In all, seven teams from Northwestern participated.

IMPACT, which stands for Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies, was sponsored this year by the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at Mayo Clinic. Students compete by proposing creative solutions to critical biomedical challenge questions selected by Mayo Clinic researchers and clinicians. They research medical literature, develop hypotheses, submit written proposals and participate in poster presentations. The annual contest is one of the premier competitions for health students.

This year, students competed in one category, offering hypotheses for the underlying causes of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that remains the subject of intense scientific research. The competition took place in March at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester, MN, campus, and the top student teams were announced recently.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the presentations by all our students,” said Jason Thoen, faculty coordinator for the Northwestern IMPACT teams and associate professor and chair of Northwestern’s Undergraduate Sciences Department.

He added: “The judges chose two of our teams for oral presentations, but all seven of our teams competed with poster presentations. They were all very professional. All teams represented Northwestern extremely well.”

The oral presentation teams won silver and bronze awards, coming after a Northwestern team placed first at IMPACT last year.

The Northwestern students who won the silver medal are: Rebecca Hinricher, Thomas Kelly, Jonathan Kuo and Tashfia Zareen. Members of the team that won the bronze medal are: Jibraan Mohajir, Sarah Siddiqui, Pavina Soukamneuth and Abigail Wild.

“We want to congratulate these teams and all of our students who competed and represented our university so well at IMPACT,” Northwestern President & CEO Chris Cassirer said. “Their strong showing once again demonstrates how serious, focused and bright our students are. We are fortunate to have such talented students training to be the health-care leaders of tomorrow.”

Thoen also thanked Lisa Oppegard and Susan Lawrenz-Smith, both Northwestern assistant professors who were faculty advisers for all of the university’s IMPACT teams.