Award: Medical students recognized for summer research achievements


The Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) Committee has selected three medical student researchers for awards in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the Program.

The Committee extends congratulations to the 2021 award recipients: Alana Sorgini, Jami Kronick and Kate McKenzie.

Alana Sorgini, Medicine Class of 2023, received the Dr. Glen S. Wither Award for Research for her project, Analysis of the TCGA Dataset Reveals that Subsites of Laryngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Are Molecularly Distinct.

“Alana analyzed a large volume of very complex genomic information and I was impressed with her communication skills, scientific thinking and enthusiasm,” said Sorgini’s supervisor, Dr. Anthony Nichols. “It was a pleasure to see her grow as a scientist throughout the project.”

Her research identified key molecular differences between laryngeal cancers at different subsites, offering insight into why these cancers behave differently and contributing to knowledge on targeted treatments. 

“Having recently had a loved one successfully complete cancer treatment here in London and go into remission, I feel privileged to be able to contribute to a cancer centre that has given myself and many others so much hope.”

Sorgini says the SRTP experience has taught her that as a physician, undertaking research is an opportunity for life-long learning and a way to directly help innovate patient care.

Jami Kronick, Medicine Class of 2023, was awarded the Dr. L. DeWitt Wilcox Award, for her project, Assessment of Treatment Resistance Criteria in Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Studies of Schizophrenia. The award will financially support her attendance at the Annual National Student Research Forum at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Gavelston, Texas, where she will present her research. 

Under the supervision of Drs. Amer Burhan and Lena Palaniyappan, Kronick developed a numerical approach to measuring the quality of assessments for treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS). TRS has traditionally been difficult to assess, however, accurate assessment is necessary to determine if patients are eligible for non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS), one of the few promising treatment options for this condition.

She was inspired to pursue this research after witnessing firsthand how effective NIBS therapy can be for patients with resistant psychiatric symptoms. Before attending medical school, Kronick worked at the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Stimulation at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where she was trained in administering this therapy.

“I was excited about the potential of this research to address obstacles preventing the clinical translation of NIBS. We still have so much more to learn about the mechanisms behind the illness and how they present as unique subtypes with varying responsiveness to treatments,” said Kronick. “The first step, as I have learned, needs to be defining these subtypes consistently in the literature.”

Kate McKenzie, Medicine Class of 2023, received the Horace and Clarice Wankel Memorial Award, awarded to students exhibiting excellence in cardiovascular disease research.

Her project, titled Evaluation of Local Paediatric Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest and Emergency Services Response, examined the on-scene management and decision-making by emergency medical services in cases of paediatric cardiac arrest to develop quality improvement strategies.

“She took the results forward to make a direct impact on how we train paramedics in the region,” said Dr. Janice Tijssen, McKenzie’s supervisor for the project. “Additionally, her work has been integral to the development of five additional studies in paediatric cardiac arrest.”

McKenzie has been deeply interested in cardiology throughout medical school, and feels grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Tijssen because of her extensive experience in developing cardiac resuscitation guidelines.

“I was specifically interested in resuscitation research because of the magnitude of the impact it can have on someone’s life,” she said. “This award serves as encouragement to continue to focus on research as an integral part of my career moving forward.” 

The SRTP provides first- and second-year medical students with an opportunity to pursue their interests in research under the supervision of a faculty member. Participants work on their project over the course of ten weeks, for the duration of one or two summers, culminating in the presentation of their research at the SRTP Seminar Series.