Translational Scientists in the Making: Duke Students at Translational Science 2018

April 19, 2018

Translational Science 2018, the annual conference of the Association for Clinical and Translational Science, kicks off today in Washington, D.C., and Duke will be represented by numerous researchers and staff playing an active role in the conference proceedings.

Here we profile three students who have been selected to present research at the conference. (All three have received scholarship support from CTSI while pursuing their degrees.)


Benjamin Andrew, MD/MHSc Candidate

A fourth-year student in the MD/Master’s of Health Sciences program, Benjamin has been selected as a Gold Ribbon presenter at Translational Science 2018. His research focuses on predicting kidney injuries after cardiac surgery by measuring the trajectory of serum creatinine, a blood injection used to help estimate how well the kidneys filter.

This project has been a focus for Benjamin since his first year at Duke. One of his mentors, Dr. Mark Stafford-Smith, invited him to help conduct research on kidney injuries after heart surgery. In the midst of this research, Benjamin attended a conference presentation on using blood pressure trajectories in patients to predict and prevent strokes. He saw applicability in his study, and after reaching out to the presenter he began looking at how serum creatinine trajectories correlate with post-cardiac surgery kidney injuries.

“My hope is that in the future, we’ll be using blood flow to measure renal resistance indexes and develop a better sense for which patients will go on to develop an injury,” Benjamin said. “And hopefully from there, we can develop more protective measures for patients.”

Benjamin has attended Translational Science before, but this will be his first time presenting outside of a poster session. He hopes to get valuable feedback from conference attendees that will help shape the path of his research moving forward.


Rasheedat Zakare-Fagbamila, MD/MHSc Candidate

Rasheedat has been selected as a Blue Ribbon presenter at ACTS 2018 for her research titled, “A Prospective Trial of Mobile Technology for Patient Education in Spine Clinic.”

A native of Tallahassee, FL, Rasheedat is in the midst of an ambitious journey toward becoming both a practicing neurosurgeon and a researcher focused on health services. She is particulary interested in developing interventions that improve communication between patients and care providers.

“When I see something that could be more efficient in the hospital, my instinct is to try and do something about it,” she says. “I like to work on hospital policy and making sure we’re giving our patients the best care.”

At Translational Science 2018, she’ll be presenting her work on an educational tool that patients can use in the Spine Clinic waiting room to learn about topics related to their chief complaints. She is investigating whether such an intervention might improve patients’ spine health literacy and overall satisfaction with their clinic visit.

Rasheedat is inspired by the example of her mentor, Dr. Oren Gottfried, a surgeon-scientist who serves as vice chair for quality in the Department of Neurosurgery at Duke, using data to improve safety and patient satisfaction. She also credits her mother with keeping her connected to the patient-centered approach.

"One of my best critics is my mom," she says. "I run a lot of my ideas for invterventions by her first and get her feedback. Our focus is on making simple interventions that are easy for patients and easy for doctors."


Christopher Calixte, MD/MHSc Candidate

Christopher Calixte DukeAs an undergraduate student studying psychology at Florida State University, Christopher Calixte developed a fascination with the brain and understanding how it works. That fascination led him into Alzheimer’s research, specifically studying how clinicians can detect the disease earlier. He will be a Blue Ribbon presenter at the 2018 conference.

Christopher’s research project looks at how automated quantification software can track changes in a patient’s brain and, possibly, detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier. His project will follow patients for one year, comparing MRI results to determine if this new software accurately predicted which patients would start to show signs of Alzheimer’s. This would ultimately benefit not just radiologists and clinicians, but patients as well.

“When radiologists order MRIs, they can receive quantitative data that they can use that tells them more than qualitative data alone,” Christopher said. “And with quantitative information, patients can have an easier time understanding their prognosis.”

After Christopher graduates from the Master’s of Health Sciences program next month, he’ll turn his attention to medical school and radiology residency programs. He hopes to continue his research project, with the ultimate goal of getting automated quantitative software into clinical trials to better understand their impact.