USU Research Days: A Celebration of Collaboration and Innovation in Health Sciences

The annual Research Days event at the Uniformed Services University brought out more than 260 students to share their postdoctoral research.

A stack of three booklets entitled Graduate Student Colloquium sit on a table looking out over a presentation being given.
The three-day event brought out more than 260 students to share their postdoctoral research 
and emphasized the importance of facilitating collaboration and communication between 
researchers, faculty, and graduate students. (Photo credit: Khari Bridges)

June 6, 2024 by USU External Affairs

Nightmare studies, the mental healthcare needs of previously injured soldiers and their families, and childhood obesity were all among the many poster sessions held during the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) Research Days held the week of May 13.

The annual event is dedicated to showcasing the research of students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates from the university’s F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine (SOM), SOM’s graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health, Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN), and the Postgraduate Dental College (PDC). The three-day event brought out more than 260 students to share their postdoctoral research and emphasized the importance of facilitating collaboration and communication between researchers, faculty, and graduate students.

With a mix of poster presentations, speakers, and panels, the yearly event highlights USU’s essential role in health sciences research, spanning civilian and military initiatives.

To kick off Research Days, six early career scientists presented their novel, mission critical research during the Postdoctoral Fellow Research Symposium that included topics such as immunology, traumatic brain injury, infectious diseases and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The speaker for this year’s Postdoctoral Fellow Keynote Lecture was Dr. Sergio R. Santa Maria, a research scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center with a presentation entitled “Development of Biosensor Technologies for Deep Space Exploration.” (Photo credit: MC2 Brennen Easter)
The speaker for this year’s Postdoctoral Fellow Keynote Lecture was Dr. Sergio R. Santa Maria, a research
scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center with a presentation entitled
“Development of Biosensor Technologies for Deep Space Exploration.” (Photo credit: MC2 Brennen Easter)

The keynote speaker, Dr. Sergio Santa Maria, a research scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center, closed the symposium with a lecture about the intricacies of sending biological research into low earth orbit and beyond. 

The presentations kept the audience interested and provided a fruitful exchange of ideas and a deeper insight into the research and scientific contributions provided by USU early career scientists.

Dr. Meena Madhur, division director of Clinical Pharmacology, and associate professor of Medicine, and associate professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Physiology at Indiana University School of Medicine, provided this year’s Bullard Lecture on “A Novel Link Between Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease.” The Bullard Lecture is named after the late Dr. John Bullard, USU’s former associate dean for Graduate and Continuing Education. Dr. Madhur delivered a compelling lecture on the importance of treating hypertension as a chronic disease.  Her research shows a critical link between hypertension and key regulators of the immune system. Madhur’s work suggests that treatments that modify the immune system could be helpful in addition to other treatments for hypertension and heart disease.

On the second day, Dr. Gerald W. Fischer, chairman and CEO of Longhorn Vaccines and Diagnostics, delivered this year’s Presidential Lecture. 

Fischer originally came to USU in 1977 and was appointed as faculty, serving 17 of his 23 years in the U.S. Army. Fischer was a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and director of Pediatric Research and the Infectious Disease Fellowship Program. 

Dr. Gerald W. Fischer (center, right), chairman and CEO of Longhorn Vaccines and Diagnostics, delivered this year’s Presidential Lecture. Here, Fischer poses with USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Dr. Patrick Hickey, chair of USU’s Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Martin Ottolini, assistant dean for Capstone Projects and professor at USU. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)
Dr. Gerald W. Fischer (center, right), chairman and CEO of Longhorn Vaccines and Diagnostics, delivered this
year’s Presidential Lecture. Here, Fischer poses with USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Dr. Patrick Hickey,
chair of USU’s Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Martin Ottolini, assistant dean for Capstone Projects and
professor at USU. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)

While maintaining his role as an adjunct professor of Pediatrics at the university, Fischer was also actively engaged in the launch of numerous biotech companies. In his role at Longhorn Vaccines and Diagnostics LLC, he works closely with the military and other organizations, specializing in infectious diseases and global health.

Fischer highlighted the significance of collaboration and teamwork during his presentation, “The Science Pathway Discovery and Inventions,” in the Sanford Auditorium. He outlined his path from a young lab volunteer through the development of an antibody that has been subsequently licensed by major biotechnology companies to treat RSV and other infections.

 “The science pathway and discovery is exciting. It’s fun,” said Fischer, concluding his lecture. “You don’t do it alone. It’s all about your team. It’s about colleagues.”

Dr. Gwenyth R. Wallen, a tenured, senior investigator at the NIH Clinical Center, was this year’s Faye G. Abdellah lecturer for the GSN with her lecture “Nurse Scientists Leading Interdisciplinary Biobehavioral Research in Health Disparities: The Future Looks Bright.”

From 2016 to 2021, Wallen held the position of Chief Nurse Officer for the National Institutes of Health. Wallen said she felt honored to deliver the annual Faye G. Abdellah lecture given her significant impact on nursing history. 

Dr. Gwenyth R. Wallen, a tenured, senior investigator at the NIH Clinical Center, was this year’s Faye G. Abdellah lecturer for the GSN with her lecture “Nurse Scientists Leading Interdisciplinary Biobehavioral Research in Health Disparities: The Future Looks Bright.” (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)
Dr. Gwenyth R. Wallen, a tenured, senior investigator at the NIH Clinical Center, was this year’s Faye G.
Abdellah lecturer for the GSN with her lecture “Nurse Scientists Leading Interdisciplinary Biobehavioral
Research in Health Disparities: The Future Looks Bright.” (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)

Dr. Faye G. Abdellah was the founding dean of the USU Graduate School of Nursing.  Abdellah, who was a retired U.S. Public Health Service rear admiral, is described as a pioneer and leader of nursing, having initially been inspired to go into healthcare after witnessing the horror of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

“I feel very humbled by the history and think of her as a nursing pioneer as well as a leader and I don’t believe her work is done,” Wallen said. “I believe we have to finish her work and continue it for decades to come.”

Specifically, Wallen mentioned Abdellah’s theory of nursing science innovation.

“There’s been this revitalization of her theory… in the last couple of years,” Wallen said. “Around the world people have started using her theory and her list of problems as a way to frame their research.”

Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos gave the Eighth Annual LTC Isabelle Bagin Memorial Lecture with a presentation entitled “Conceptualizing the Mechanisms of Social Determinants of Health: A Heuristic Framework to Inform Future Directions for Mitigation of Health Inequity.” (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)
Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos gave the Eighth Annual LTC Isabelle Bagin Memorial Lecture with a
presentation entitled “Conceptualizing the Mechanisms of Social Determinants of Health: A Heuristic
Framework to Inform Future Directions for Mitigation of Health Inequity.” (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)

During the event, graduate students and faculty browsed the aisles between the various graduate school poster sessions — the variety of research ran the spectrum.

During the GSN session, Dr. Jane Fall-Dickson, the associate dean for research, said that Research Days was an opportunity to come together to celebrate the university’s strong commitment to military research and scholarship. 

“We both, students and faculty, have made the decision to learn to care for those in harm’s way,” said Fall-Dickson. “This is no small thing and fuels our dedication to Cura personalis — caring for the whole person within the military health system and across diverse levels of care."

A woman in beige points at a poster board with research on it, showing another woman wearing red.
With a mix of poster presentations, speakers, and panels, the yearly event highlights USU’s essential role in
health sciences research, spanning civilian and military initiatives. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour)