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MedGap Program

The ACTRI MedGap program is a UCSD School of Medicine institutional award, focused on research projects in medicine for 3rd year medical students, and provides 12 months of career and research development support. 

MedGap Current Awardees

Recipients Awarded in 2023



Niloofar Radgoudarzi, Medical student
Department of Ophthalmology

Mentor: Sally Baxter, MD, MSc

Project title: Analyzing data standards gaps and disparities in demographics and comorbidities in patients with diabetic retinopathy across University of California

Abstract: There are several gaps in standards in ophthalmology, including relatively low adoption of imaging standards, lack of use cases for integrating applications providing AI-based decision support, lack of common data models to harmonize big data repositories, and no standards regarding interfaces and algorithmic outputs. Diabetes affects 34.2 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of preventable blindness among working-age adults. Approximately 30% of U.S. adults with diabetes are affected by diabetic retinopathy (DR). Therefore, having an DR AI/ML-ready dataset will enable downstream AI applications. Our goal is to analyze the gaps in the current DM-related ocular data standards representation and examine the disparities and visual outcomes for DM patients across University of California.



Alexander Lieu, BS 
Department of Ophthalmology, Division of Cornea and Refractive Surgery 

Mentor: Natalie A. Afshari, MD 

Project Title: Impact and Prevention of Smoking-Induced Oxidative Stress on Cataract Development 

Abstract: Smoking has been robustly associated with increased incidence and accelerated progression of cataracts. However, molecular pathophysiology of cataracts is not well understood, and the current knowledge of the effects of cigarette smoke on the transcriptome of lens epithelial cells is limited. We aim to elucidate the transcriptomic changes of cigarette smoke compounds, such as hydroquinone and acrolein, on lens epithelial cells. Furthermore, we aim to identify compounds with the potential to either prevent cataract development or dampen the effects of oxidative stress secondary to smoking. Our research will serve as a launch point for the development of non-surgical cataract treatments.


MedGap---Danny-Lee.jpgDanny Lee, Medical Student
Department of Dermatology, Division of Pediatric Dermatology

Mentor: Dawn Eichenfield, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Title: Multimodal Approach of Beta-Blockers and Laser Treatment for Ulcerated Infantile Hemangiomas

Abstract: Infantile hemangiomas are benign vascular tumors of childhood. Ulceration is a common complication that places significant morbidity, including bleeding, pain, infection risk, scarring, and functional impairment. Even with appropriate treatment, they may heal poorly. While there have been many studies examining the management of hemangiomas, few studies have focused on ulcerated infantile hemangiomas. There are no uniform clinical guidelines for efficacious resolution with the myriad of treatment options, such as beta-blockers, pulsed dye laser, antibiotics, and corticosteroids. This project will involve first performing a systematic literature review on the efficacy of beta-blockers and laser treatment on ulcerated infantile hemangiomas. A retrospective study will also be performed exploring treatment modalities used in patients at Rady Children's Division of Dermatology.


MedGap---Sarah-Alsamman.jpgSarah Alsamman, Medical Student
Department of ​Obstetrics and Gynecology
Mentor: Sheila Mody, MD MPH 

Project Title: Barriers to postpartum health and opinions on a postpartum peer navigator program amongst refugee women resettled in California

Abstract: Postpartum care is critical for maternal mental and physical health and serves as a bridge to long-term engagement with the health system. However, 30% of women in the US do not receive postpartum care. Patients who have been forcibly displaced are at increased risk for maternal morbidity and postpartum depression. Postpartum care is a missed opportunity to improve long-term maternal health in this vulnerable population. Postpartum peer navigation is an effective tool for improving postpartum outcomes. However, no studies have directly engaged refugee women the type of postpartum support they perceive as useful and the needs they need addressed through a peer navigator program. This study explores the postpartum experiences of refugee women and assess their interest in and opinions on a postpartum peer navigator program.


MedGap---Kurt-Pianka.jpgKurt Pianka, BS Biomedical Engineering
Department of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology

Mentors: Claude Sirlin, MD; Kathryn Fowler, MD; Zachary Berman, MD 

Project Title: Optimization and Evaluation of Image Registration Subtraction Algorithm for Assessing Treatment Response to Locoregional Therapy in Primary Liver Tumors

Abstract: Primary liver cancer is the 6th most commonly diagnosed cancer but the 3rd most common cause of cancer-related deaths. The majority of primary liver tumors (75 – 85%) are hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Transarterial radioembolization (TARE) plays a key role in the HCC treatment paradigm for liver-confined disease, as a bridge to transplant, and for tumor downstaging. The Liver Reporting and Data System (LI-RADS) treatment response algorithm (LR-TR) is used to categorize tumor response to locoregional therapies like TARE. However, TARE can create enhancement artifacts that complicate LR-TR categorization. Strategies to overcome this include the use of image subtraction, though this can be ineffective because structures may not align across series due to patient movement. Convolutional neural network (CNN) based image registration can generate deformable registration that is based on anatomic structures rather than simple table position. We hypothesize that a CNN-based approach will improve reader agreement and confidence in assessing viability following TARE Y90 therapy compared to standard scanner-generated subtractions. In addition, the use of a CNN based approach may lead to improved accuracy of LR-TR categorization.


MedGap---Shamilka-Seneviratne.jpgShamilka Seneviratne, Medical Student
Department of Psychiatry, Sanford Institute of Empathy and Compassion

Faculty Mentor: Lisa Eyler, PhD

Project Title: The impact of longitudinal mental health curriculum on medical students’ compassion and empathy and burnout rates in the urgent care physician population

Abstract: Access to mental health resources has been limited for youth, with many youth often using their local urgent cares as their first point of contact. At Mid-City Community Clinic’s pediatric urgent care, the pediatricians often cannot perform in-depth visits for patients coming in with mental health concerns, and these patients are often lost to follow up. This project will focus on providing in-depth follow-up for these patients to address their mental health concerns. We are building a longitudinal program for the medical school that will expose medical students to interdisciplinary care, mental health resources in the San Diego community, and medical experience in a psychiatric setting, while developing skills of navigating conversations surrounding mental health and providing trauma informed care. We will study how this program affects the empathy and compassion in medical students and how the program affects the burnout rate of the urgent care providers.