Creating vital pathways for student research


Gaining research experience and being published are invaluable to a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)  However, accessing such opportunities during medical school can be difficult. Carolina Restini, Ph.D., Pharm.D., and associate professor at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM), understands that and is working with the college and its partners to provide students with opportunities in a variety of ways.

Dr. Restini works to create pathways for students to participate in research and publish their findings through partnerships she’s creating, as well as individual opportunities for students to join other work and see their outcomes published or presented at conferences. In one of the newest and largest initiatives in this area, Dr. Restini, associate professor with MSU Pharmacology and Toxicology – a joint department with MSU Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Human Medicine – developed a partnership with McLaren Health Care to open research spots for MSUCOM second-year medical students.

Created from this work is the Summer Research and Education Program, piloted in 2021 with two MSUCOM students who participated in research with the Internal Medicine Residency program at McLaren Macomb Hospital. MSUCOM students from the 2021 program not only were part of the research teams, but also authors on the published works following the research.

Sami Abdelaziz, OMS-II, worked on the project, “The Glasgow Blatchford Score Is Associated with the Need for Endoscopic Intervention and Blood Transfusion in Patients with Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding,” and Kerrie Kopicko, OMS-II, worked on, “Relationship between Urine Output Monitoring in Exacerbation of Congestive Heart Failure and Length of Stay.” Both students received awards after presenting their work at the Macomb Forum Research Conference in January 2022.

It isn’t only the MSUCOM students who benefit from the summer program, Dr. Restini said. She works as a mentor to both the residents to help them to become future mentors and the MSUCOM students to support them to accomplish their goals.

Seeing the outcomes and success of that first summer program resulted in eight total open spots for MSUCOM students in 2022. To participate, students are required to apply with a letter explaining why they want to be a part of the team with residents to do clinical research. Dr. Restini said experience isn’t required – that’s the goal of the program. She evaluates the applicants, and they are sent on to the committee at McLaren which interviews and selects the second-year medical students who are then embedded into existing research projects. Twenty-three students applied for the open eight spots last summer.

The second-year medical students spend a month with the resident research team as part of the Summer Research and Education Program and continue working with the team after that month for publication in a journal or to present findings at conferences. In fact, all eight MSUCOM students who participated in the 2022 summer program presented their work in different places.

“Our students are building relationships, collecting data and learning and improving their net worth for the future,” Dr. Restini said. “This enhances their education.”

For Sami Abdelaziz OMS-II, the opportunity was invaluable. "This process really expanded my comfort zone. As a second-year student I was able to immerse myself into the hospital earlier than most. I sat in on resident lecture, rounded with attendings, and shadowed procedures,” Abdelaziz said. “Aside from hospital activities I was able to present my research on a few occasions and gain experience in public speaking."

Two of the students participating in last summer’s research program, Amy Bayer, OMS-II, and Issra Doura, OMS-II, recently learned their project, "Patients at Risk for Congestive Heart Failure Should Avoid Itraconazole: A Case Report of Itraconazole-Induced Diastolic Congestive Heart Failure,” was accepted to be presented at the American College of Cardiology conference in March.

 “I am very grateful to Dr. Restini for playing such a key role in my research experience,” Bayer said. “Her guidance was fundamental, from facilitating the program itself to being continually available to answer any question. This was my first experience with research, and it was truly such a positive one. I definitely see myself seeking out similar opportunities throughout the rest of my career.”

Outside of the summer program, Dr. Restini looks for opportunities for individual students. For example, Elise Ketelaar, OMS-IV, was not part of the summer research program, but was able to work with the research groups outside of the program and presented her work and published a paper, “Assessing Root Causes of First Case On-time Start (FCOTS) Delay in the Orthopedic Department at a Busy Level II Community Teaching Hospital,” in the Spartan Medical Research Journal.

“My experiences with Dr. Restini will unquestionably help me in my research endeavors throughout my future career,” Ketelaar said. “I now understand how to construct and submit research. This is something that I plan to continue doing in the future, and I feel confident that I will be successful now that I’ve been able to work on several projects with the mentorship of an experienced researcher.”

Ketelaar added she is proud of her published article in the Spartan Medical Research Journal and is working on an additional submission, which she said “would not have been possible without the guidance and dedication of Dr. Restini. Research is extremely important for any medical student who has a passion for positively advancing the field of medicine through research, as well as any medical student applying to competitive residencies.”

It is that understanding and desire to mentor future physicians that drives Dr. Restini’s work. “We are preparing for students be able to join research in different ways,” she said. “Because of the success of the program we’ve initiated, we’re now speaking with other institutions and anticipate even more opportunities.”

Dr. Restini sees her job as serving as the conduit for MSUCOM students to find research opportunities to build their clinical experience and knowledge.