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Highlights from ESRF: Showcasing Research Excellence

The 50th Eastern Atlantic Student Research Forum (ESRF) was held at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine and took place from February 16-17, 2024. The event, which was sponsored by the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA), provided medical students, researchers, and resident physicians with great exposure opportunities.

Raksha NarasimhanESRF is an international symposium held annually at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Each year, ESRF invites medical, graduate, M.D./Ph.D. students, and resident physicians from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Central and South America to present novel basic scientific and clinical research.

The forum also promotes the interchange of scientific ideas between students and faculty instructors, the encouragement of student-initiated research, and the professional development of future biomedical researchers.

Diverse Abstract Categories and Presentation Formats:

The conference featured diverse categories for abstract submissions, including Basic Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Public Health, and Case Reports. Case Reports, in particular, required a research component as part of the abstract and presentations. The presentations were conducted in various formats, including:

Oral Presentation: A 10-minute discussion followed by a 5-minute Q&A session.

Chalk Talk: 5-minute presentation with a maximum of 5 slides, without a Q&A session.

Poster Session: A one-hour session in which participants showcased their work on posters. 

Silvia Vargas Parras next to her poster

Silvia Vargas Parra, M.S.P.H. alum Fall ’23. Vargas Parra was a tuition remission student, and she is currently working as a Sr. Manager for Research Support at the University.

Department of Public Health Sciences at ESRF:

Katrina Hayes, a third-year M.D./M.P.H. student, presented a poster session on "The Current Use and Sentiment of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder Among Unsheltered Individuals in the Miami Medical District." The provided data is part of a larger ongoing project that Hayes has developed with the help and guidance of Dr. Edward Suarez, Jr., Psy.D.

Their study focused on qualitative research exploring barriers, facilitators, and attitudes influencing engagement in alcohol use rehabilitation among the unsheltered population. Through qualitative interviews, they discovered a lack of knowledge about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol cravings among individuals experiencing homelessness. Hayes’ poster highlighted both qualitative and quantitative data on awareness, openness to trying MAT, and preferred settings for administering such medications.

Her future plans include applying to a psychiatry residency in the fall, with a focus on child and adolescent psychiatry. She proudly belongs to the class of 2025.

Madison Guido next to her presentation
Madison Guido delivered a Chalk Talk at ESRF.

Madison Guido, double ‘Cane and third-year M.D./M.P.H. student, delivered an engaging Chalk Talk titled “Limited Acceptance of Buprenorphine in Recovery Residences in South Florida: A Secret Shopper Survey,” a study aimed at understanding the frequency and nature of policy violations among recovery residences in South Florida.

Buprenorphine, a medication for opioid use disorder, has been shown to reduce opioid overdose mortality and promote treatment retention in individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD). “Despite the proven effectiveness of buprenorphine, there are still significant barriers to treatment. In South Florida, individuals taking buprenorphine may be denied access to recovery residences due to their medication use despite there being federal laws that prohibit these practices,” said Guido.

Access to recovery residences certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) is significantly restricted for individuals on buprenorphine in South Florida. Out of the 100 recovery residences surveyed, by conducting a secret shopper survey, the results indicate that 53% prohibited buprenorphine entirely.

“There is a pressing need to improve access to effective treatment options for opioid use disorder and address the complex factors influencing policies and practices within the recovery residence industry,” she said.

Raksha Narasimhan, an M.D./M.P.H. student and part of the 2027 Class, explored the psychosocial, behavioral, and demographic factors impacting women's non-adherence to pap-smear standards in her presentation “Sociopsychological Characteristics of Women Non-Adherent to Pap-Smear Guidelines.”

Raksha Narasimhan next to her poster
Raksha Narasimhan, class president.

Utilizing data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS 6) in 2022, the study identified key factors such as low self-efficacy, medical mistrust, and low perceived quality of care that serve as predictors for non-adherence to pap-smear guidelines.

As an annual hub for collaboration and knowledge exchange in biomedical research, ESRF consistently brings together international participants, promoting student-driven research, and contributing to the professional growth of emerging researchers. The Department of Public Health Sciences shared important contributions delivering novel presentations that highlight the department's dedication to research quality and community engagement. As another successful ESRF concludes, the ongoing spirit of collaboration and commitment to advancing research leaves a lasting imprint on the collective pursuit of scientific excellence.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández, published on February 20, 2024.