2019 BIGGER Participants Present Research Projects

December 17, 2019
Dr. Kevin Thomas and the 2019 BIGGER scholars
Dr. Kevin Thomas (center) with the 2019 BIGGER scholars.

On December 6, participants in the 2019 Bridging the Gap to Enhance Clinical Research (BIGGER) Program presented their research projects to their mentors and program administrators. The projects were a result of six months of research by the participants, many of whom will apply to medical school or other graduate programs in the coming year.

The participants in the 2019 BIGGER program were:

  • Morgan Lane
    Faculty mentors: Drs. Kanecia Zimmerman and Daniel Benjamin
    Project: “Comparative Efficacy and Safety of Late Off-Label Sufactant Use”
  • Breyah Atkinson
    Faculty mentor: Dr. Lance Okeke
    Project: “PrEP Retention in Care: A Systematic Review”
  • Maria Parra
    Faculty mentors: Drs. Kevin Thomas and Larry Jackson
    Project: “Barriers to Organ Transplantation Among Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Groups”
  • Antonina Flair
    Faculty mentors: Drs. Jennifer Li and Christoph Hornik
    Project: “Association Between Digoxin Use and Cardiac Function in Infants with Single Ventricle Congenital Heart Disease”
  • Chiagoziem Ogbonna
    Faculty mentor: Dr. Andrew Landstrom
    Project: “Cardiac Phenotype of ATP1A3 Mutations: A Retrospective Analysis”
  • Melanie Bakovic
    Faculty mentors: Drs. Kristin Newby and Erich Huang
    Project: “Family History of Coronary Heart Disease as a Motivator for Healthier Lifestyles”

The BIGGER Program is designed for students from underrepresented groups from local universities interested in gaining experience in high-quality research. Participants work closely with a junior and senior faculty mentor at Duke and attend observational clinical rotations, as well as career development sessions.

Morgan Lane worked closely with Drs. Kanecia Zimmerman and Daniel Benjamin on her project. Joining BIGGER, Lane had never considered research as a career path; as a result of her time in the program, she is currently applying to medical school.

“At the time that I applied to the BIGGER program, I honestly didn’t even know what clinical research entailed,” Lane said. “I quickly learned, however, through classroom sessions covering topics such as ethics, statistics, and scientific writing techniques. These lectures equipped my BIGGER program colleagues and I with the skills that we needed to jump into our research projects.”

Drs. Kevin Thomas and Vivian Chu are co-principal investigators for BIGGER. Throughout the last six months, they have watched students in the cohort grow in their understanding of clinical research and worked closely with their research mentors. Dr. Thomas said the final presentations served as a satisfying culmination of all of their hard work.

“It has been a privilege to work with this outstanding group of individuals who were selected for the 2019 BIGGER Program,” he said. “The BIGGER administrative team is excited to follow the career trajectory of this talented cohort.”

Learn more about the BIGGER Program on the CTSI website. Applications for the 2020 BIGGER Program are due February 29, 2020