Medical students were among those recognized for research during Van Liere Research Conference

The 2023 Van Liere Research Conference presented by WVU Health Sciences Office of Research and Graduate Education was held at the Health Sciences Center Jan. 25-26.

The conference featured over 100 posters and 30 oral presentations. Students, staff and faculty in all five schools across Health Sciences including medical, professional programs, undergraduate, graduate and residents participated in the conference.

This year’s keynote speaker was Patricia S. Stegg, PhD, senior investigator deputy chief for the Women’s Malignancies Center for Cancer Research as the National Cancer Institute.

Several students from the School of Medicine were recognized for their research contributions including first-year medical student Andrea Pettit.

Pettit received the William A. Neal Outstanding Research Award for her oral presentation titled “Social media down to a science: a qualitative analysis of claims made in MMR vaccine videos uploaded to YouTube.” The award was presented by Charles Mullett, M.D., PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

Pettit’s researched focused on the viewing habits of people using the “Up Next” feature on YouTube and the ways it has influenced opinions on vaccines.

“I had this idea before COVID-19 and it has become even more relevant now since the pandemic,” Pettit said. “There’s a lot of data out there for clinicians saying patients are more skeptical of vaccines but there isn’t a lot of qualitative data to inform physicians on what kinds of information these patients are seeing on the internet and specific platforms.”

Pettit chose 19 videos on YouTube to conduct a qualitative analysis on through a coding process which revealed several themes related to viewing habits.

In 2018, Pettit was also a winner in the Undergraduate Research Poster category while a student in the Immunology and Medical Microbiology program.

“Being a winner at the conference for a second time was a full circle moment that was special for me because I was able to present completely different research and acknowledge the many people at Health Sciences who have invested in me,” Pettit said.

After medical school, Pettit hopes to practice urology in West Virginia and continue pursing population health research related to Appalachia.

Medical student Quincy Hathaway was the Translational Science and Population Health Oral Presentation winner for the presentation titled “Predication of heart failure incidence through pectoralis muscle quality: Semantic segmentation in chest computer tomography.”

Medical students Bethany Koontz and Dominic Lombardo as well as Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences resident Alen Eid were all winners in the Poster Presentation category.

The first Van Liere Research Conference was held in 1965 and recognized the research of medical students in the School of Medicine. Dr. Edward J. Van Liere, the dean of the School of Medicine from 1937 to 1960, developed the two-year medical school into a four-year accredited program. The conference has continued to grow in terms of participation and the scope of the research presented over the past several years. The celebration of the diversity of investigations, and investigators, continues to highlight the excitement around research at WVU Health Sciences.

Neal, the first winner of the conference, went on to be a professor and physician in pediatric cardiology and founded the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities Project. The William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences opened in the fall of 2022.

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