Mending Broken Hearts is Focus of Winning Research Presented at the 19th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)

Published: December 12, 2019

“Kindergarten was a life-changer for me,” said Queensborough Community College student, Hannah Rose. “Not because of what I learned in school, but because of a film my parents played for me called Something the Lord Made. The film is a true story about Vivien Thomas, an African American man who went from being a janitor to help develop a groundbreaking procedure used to treat blue baby syndrome.”

“From a young age, my parents taught me to take pride in the color of my skin, and have the confidence to be anything I wanted. By the end of the movie my dream was to be a scientist and I knew I would be successful at it if I stayed the course.”

Rose, a biology student and rising junior, has stayed the course. She and her mentor, Rochelle Nelson, Ph.D., Biological Sciences and Geology at Queensborough, were winners at the recent 19th National ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students) in the cell biology category for their research on broken heart syndrome.

Nelson said, “I've enjoyed watching Hannah develop into a junior scientist capable of understanding and interpreting clinical journals, and performing and optimizing laboratory experiments. Most impressively, I've enjoyed listening to Hannah speak about our research. Her eloquence and clarity far exceed that of an undergraduate student who is still in their first year of learning bench work.”

Rose’s face lit up as she encapsulated what she has learned these past months. “We all experience stress in our lives but when stress is extreme and constant it can result in ‘takotsubo cardiomyopathy’, a condition first discovered in Japan by a cardiologist.  The symptoms, which mostly affect post-menopausal women, are marked by a deflated left ventricle that causes the heart’s pump to weaken. The episodes, which last only seconds, are often misdiagnosed as a mild heart attack. Because of this misdiagnosis it is unknown how many broken heart cases actually exist.”

Rose’s opportunity, to conduct research with Dr. Nelson and participate in ABRCMS was made possible by the National Institute of Health (NIH) Bridges program under the direction of Dr. Patricia Schneider of the Biological Sciences and Geology Department at Queensborough. Three additional Queensborough students were selected under the NIH Bridges program to attend the conference: Curtis Edwards, Kaylynn Pubill and Malcolm Fox.

“Students learn of the excitement and significance of biomedical research through the Bridges program,” said Schneider. “Their success rates are based on enhanced academic planning, curricula development, updated technology in teaching labs, faculty development, and peer mentoring.”

Over 5,100 individuals attended ABRCMS this year, including 2,400 community college undergraduates, and post baccalaureates. The conference was held in Anaheim, California over a four-day period in November.

Schneider continued, “This conference is an extraordinary opportunity for research students. In just four jam packed days, they connected with thousands of their peers from all over the country, met leading speakers and were recruited by universities and scientific institutions for summer programs. Presentations, she explained, began with a rehearsal in front of an informal judge advisor and then before three formal judges who use a scoring rubric to grade upon.

Schneider added, “The Bridges program opens doors to students for careers in biomedicine.”

The NIH-Bridges to the Baccalaureate is now in its second year of a new five-year grant. Since it began at Queensborough in 2002, hundreds of students have gone through the program; many of whom have completed doctorates at Tufts University, Boston University, The City University of New York-CUNY and the University at Buffalo-SUNY, among others.

"Dr. Schneider has been the driving force behind NIH Bridges for the last 15 years. Participation in the grant has been a life changing experience for hundreds of our students. Many of them have gone on to earn Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s, all thanks to a great head start that was given by the NIH Bridges program,” said Dr. Nidhi Gadura, Professor and Chairperson, Biological Sciences and Geology.

Another exciting aspect of the ABRCMS experience says Rose, “was that it was a level playing field because no matter where students came from or what schools they attended we all had similar academic and life experiences.”

Rose, now 20, lives in Far Rockaway, Queens. Hers is a CUNY family. Her sister, Claire, is in her first semester at Queensborough studying environmental science, and her other sister Rae recently graduated from Medgar Evers College with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. Her father’s passion for science led him to study at York College and City Tech. Her mother has taken courses at York College.

“My dad did not believe in gender barriers. Instead of dolls, he always bought my two sisters and me engineering and chemistry kits with test tubes and microscopes—we loved conducting experiments. My favorite thing was reading and conducting virtual surgery.”

Before Queensborough, Rose struggled in high school, often feeling unchallenged by her studies.  She had excellent guidance counselors who recognized her frustration. One helped her enroll at Jamaica Hospital/Pathways to Graduation, a program which features high school courses in the morning and medical assistant courses in the afternoon. When she turned to college opportunities, a pathways counselor pointed her to Queensborough, recommending the College for its beautiful campus and outstanding opportunities in STEM, particularly health sciences. By the time she enrolled at Queensborough in the fall of 2018 she was a certified medical assistant.

Now, Rose is about to finish her fall semester with an eye on spring 2020 to graduate.

“Dr. Schneider and Dr. Nelson noticed my potential and passion for the world of science. I will always be grateful to both of them for this incredible opportunity.”

The Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program is a partnership established between Queensborough, Queens College and City College to achieve the long-term goals of improving Queensborough’s ability to train and graduate under-represented science students, and to facilitate their transfer to baccalaureate programs in biomedicine or behavioral science. In 2018 Queensborough Community College was the only community college out of 27 four-year colleges and universities—including Stony Brook University, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Indian University-Purdue University—across the country to be named an ABRCMS awardee in the category of chemistry.

 

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