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Making the Rounds at UNLV School of Medicine
 Issue 211 - September 10, 2019

Student medical research -- what an important topic to be the focus of my first newsletter as dean of the medical school. Today, there is a growing understanding that researchers make better clinicians. As Dr. Dale Netski, the UNLV School of Medicine Director of Student Research will tell you, research facilitates critical thinking and critical appraisal, keys to the reading and interpreting of scientific literature that keep physicians up to date with the latest advances in their fields -- information at the very core of academic medicine. I trust today's feature on Anita Albanese, one of the students presenting at our recent 1st Annual Research Forum, will show you that our students appreciate that research is the lifeline of medical advancement. 
UNLV School of Medicine
Hosts 1st Annual Research Forum
Anita Albanese poses by her poster on post-op delirium after hip fracture treatment review at the 1st Annual Research Forum 2019 at UNLV Shadow Lane Campus.
 If you google Anita Albanese, now a third year student at the UNLV School of Medicine, it doesn’t take you long to learn she’s enjoyed research prior to entering medical school.

Yes, on the internet you can quickly learn that in 2014, the Las Vegas native, then an undergraduate at the University of Nevada Reno, was involved in research that saw her travel to San Antonio, TX to present her findings at the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting. 

It was the culmination of a 10-week summer internship at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she and another student had explored a possible rehabilitation model for stroke victims who essentially had no functional ability on one side of their bodies.

“When I don’t know something, when there is a problem without a solution, I like to try to find answers,” is the Silverado High School graduate’s shorthand explanation of why research fascinates her. 

During the medical school’s 1st Annual Research Forum on September 7th at the Shadow Lane Campus -- it was sponsored by the UNLV Medical Research Society -- Ms. Albanese presented a poster that dealt with post-op delirium after a hip fracture and also made an oral presentation on how the loss of independence by geriatric patients in handling their bathing, toileting and eating affects their mental health. She also made the closing remarks at the symposium. 

“Anita played a large role in helping us put on this first research forum,” said Dr. Dale Netski, the UNLV School of Medicine Director of Student Research whose expertise was instrumental in the presentations of the 38 students who participated. “She’s simply enthusiastic about research.” 
"When I don't know something, when there is a problem without a solution, I like to try to find answers." Anita Albanese
UNLV School of Medicine Dean Dr. John Fildes with student researchers during 1st Annual Research Forum on Sept. 7th.
Students explain their research projects to attendees at the Annual Research Forum.
Even though her sister, Jessica, had decided to become a physician -- she’s now an orthopedic surgery resident in Las Vegas -- it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Ms. Albanese would follow her into the medical profession.

Her undergraduate major was chemical engineering. “I loved math and science and thought it could be an interesting career.” 

The internship through the New Jersey Institute of Technology had a profound effect on her. Not only did she realize that she wanted a career where she wanted to be more in touch with people -- “I couldn’t see myself just being in a lab all day “ -- she also came to respect how men and women dealt with medical issues, such as strokes, later in life.

“I was really touched by how the people who had suffered strokes were looking for answers to overcome their problems,” said Ms. Albanese, whose intellectual reaction to her experience was to begin a second major in neuroscience to better understand how the brain works.

The internship also served as a catalyst for her decision to become a physician, one with an interest in geriatrics. 

“In medicine I realized I could do research and also work with people,” Ms. Albanese explained. “And I see geriatrics as one of the last frontiers of medicine. It hasn’t been very well studied. No matter what specialty I finally decide on, geriatrics will somehow be involved.” 

Between her first and second year of medical school, Ms. Albanese, who had won a scholarship sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, was able to formally study the field of geriatrics during the summer through the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research there -- she partnered with a psychiatrist -- led to the oral presentation she made recently on geriatric patients during the research forum. She credits Dr. Netski and Dr. Kate Martin, the associate dean for graduate medical education who was then working to bring a geriatrics fellowship to the UNLV School of Medicine, for helping her win the short term scholarship. The geriatrics fellowship at UNLV is expected to be operational in July 2020. 

“The need for geriatricians is very real,” said Ms. Albanese. 

The current patient to geriatrician ratio in Nevada is more than ten-thousand to one.

Now shadowing physicians at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada (UMC) who are seeing patients in service lines that include neurology, internal medicine, family medicine and ob-gyn, Ms. Albanese says she enjoys every day of medical school, even though it often means a 7-day a week involvement.  

“I’ll see patients with a doctor and then go home and try to read more about it or read ahead,” she said. “I just want to learn all I can for the patients I will see.” 

The daughter of a retired corrections officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and a homemaker who immigrated from Mexico, Ms. Albanese says that research will always be a large part of her future career as a physician. 

“As a doctor, I’ll have the privilege to see and work with patients,” she said. “I think the hardest thing to tell patients is that there are no answers to their problems. That’s why I will always do research. It’s at the forefront of better medicine.”  
Student Ginger Christian during poster presentations.
UNLV School of Medicine Interim Vice Dean of Academic Affairs and Education Dr. Neil Haycocks with student Danielle Arceo.
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All previous issues of  Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson , are available on our website.
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