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Two Geisel School of Medicine Students Receive Prestigious Fellowships

Lye-Yeng Wong ’18 and Freddy Vazquez ’18 will each be spending one year conducting research in their areas of interest, compliments of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, respectively.

An advocate for global health issues, Wong is heading to South Africa this summer as a Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellow. This fellowship funds students interested in global health by giving them an opportunity to conduct research in an international setting.

“The Doris Duke Fellowship will provide Lye-Yeng an incredible research opportunity and is a distinctive honor and recognition—this is one of the most competitive fellowship opportunities in the country,” says Lisa V. Adams (Med’90), director of the Center for Health Equity and associate dean of global health.

“Lye-Yeng's commitment to global health research and accomplishments to date are impressive:  During a 2015 Center for Health Equity/Dickey Center funded summer internship, she conducted research to evaluate newborn hearing loss in Nicaragua with Dartmouth's Dr. Jim Saunders—she was responsible for data collection and analysis then presented her findings at an international meeting. Few students follow their research through to completion in this manner.”

As a recipient of the prestigious and highly competitive fellowship, Wong will spend the year in South Africa participating in an HIV project looking at cardiovascular disease in HIV patients treated with HAART therapy. HAART therapy refers to a customized combination of three drugs—often referred to as highly active antiretroviral therapy—prescribed to manage HIV and reduce the likelihood of the virus developing resistance.

While HAART therapy significantly improves the prognosis of those infected with HIV, there is the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. “There have been a few studies in the US investigating diastolic dysfunction and structural abnormalities in these patients, but there is certainly a limited amount of data from sub-Saharan Africa," Wong notes.

“This is a perfect opportunity for me and inline with my goal of providing care to those in underdeveloped regions,” Wong says. Though her interest is in general surgery, the fellowship also gives her the flexibility to also develop her own project, “which will be looking at surgical outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa and the cost of effectiveness of global surgery in general.”

Fernando (Freddy) Vazquez, is among 42 talented students, selected through a competitive process, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to participate in this year’s Medical Research Scholars Program. The yearlong residential enrichment program located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, represents the organization’s commitment to training the next generation of clinician-scientists and biomedical researchers.

“My research project is contingent on which NIH principal investigator I am paired with,” says Vazquez, who is interested in vascular surgery, anesthesia, and critical care. The program also pairs fellows with senior faculty members within NIH who provide mentorship to fellows during the program and well into their medical careers.

Vazquez, an advocate for Latino health care, says his long-term career goal is to increase the representation of minority populations in medical literature so future treatment protocols better reflect patient demographics. He established, along with fellow Geisel student Adrianna Stanley ’18, the medical school’s first-ever Northeast Chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association, and served as co-director, with Stanley, of the association’s Northeast Region.

“I am extremely grateful for this tremendous opportunity,” he says. “I never imagined I would be able to boast such an accomplishment—and I am no less grateful to Geisel for providing the foundation to become a competitive applicant.”

“We are so proud of Freddy, Lye-Yeng, and all of our students who pursue scholarly activities—at Geisel, we seek to provide the foundation and encouragement for these pursuits,” says Gregory Ogrinc, MD, interim senior associate dean for medical education. “Our students are passionate and curious about many topics, and we urge them to develop those passions whether in bench research, improvement of health care, business, or health services research.”