Pauley Undergraduate Research Fellows Present at Prestigious ACC Expo (2024)

Pauley Undergraduate Research Fellows Present at Prestigious ACC Expo (1) Pauley undergraduate research fellow Lauren Daniel presents her research at ACC Expo

In late spring 2023, the Pauley Heart Center welcomed 29 college students from schools across the Commonwealth to its annual Summer Undergraduate Fellowship program. From May to July, the 2023 cohort pursued in cardiovascular research alongside faculty mentors; participated in clinical rotations throughout VCU Health’s cardiac care departments; and participated in weekly professional development workshops and of course, social activities.

This spring, four of these fellows had the opportunity to present the original research they undertook while at VCU at the American College of Cardiology’s annual Scientific Sessions & Expo, held in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend of April 6-8. Their faculty mentors first suggested submitting their research for potential presentations at the conference and helped each student prepare the necessary abstract. Get to know each student, and their research, below!

Lauren Daniel
University: The College of William and Mary
Faculty Mentor: Greg Hundley, MD
Research Project: Associations of Intermuscular Fat and Physical Activity Levels on Exercise Capacity in Breast Cancer Survivors

Lauren is currently a senior at the College of William & Mary, and she plans to enroll at the VCU School of Medicine in the fall. Summer 2023 was her second year participating in the Pauley Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Her research with mentor Greg Hundley, MD centered around investigating factors associated with declines in exercise capacity in breast cancer survivors as they are going through chemotherapy. At the conference, Lauren held a moderated poster presentation where she spoke for ten minutes about her work, then opened the floor for questions. “It was a really good first experience at a conference,” Lauren said. “A lot of cardio-oncology researchers were interested in my research, and a few asked me questions about it. It was valuable to see that the work that I've done could have clinical implications.”

Lauren said that she is grateful for the connections she forged while working with Dr. Hundley and at the Pauley Heart Center; she is glad to know there will be a few familiar faces in the crowd when she begins med school!

While in Atlanta, Lauren also made time to walk around the Olympic Centennial Park and do some sightseeing.

Pauley Undergraduate Research Fellows Present at Prestigious ACC Expo (2)Dhuha Manhil
University: Virginia Commonwealth University
Faculty Mentor: Jordana Kron, MD
Research Project: Sex Differences in Cardiac Sarcoidosis Treatment and Outcomes

Dhuha is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2023. She is pursuing a master’s in bioinformatics. With the guidance of mentor Jordana Kron, MD, Dhuha studied cardiac sarcoidosis (an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the heart) and differences between male and female comorbidities, treatments, and outcomes of the condition. After enjoying her time at Pauley last summer, Dhuha was excited that her experience culminated in her first-ever poster presentation at her first-ever conference. She is considering going into data analysis, but “doing this fellowship kind of sparked a new interest in me,” she said. “I feel like going into medical research is another option for me now.”

While in Atlanta, Dhuha did a bit of exploring before heading over to the Georgia Aquarium to see sharks and other marine wildlife.

Jacob Rodrigues

University: The College of William and Mary
Faculty Mentor: Moriah Bellissimo, PhD
Research Project: Lower Paraspinal Muscle Quality is Associated with Reduced Health Related Quality of Life During Cancer Treatment

Jacob is an undergraduate student at the College of William & Mary, where he is on track to graduate this spring with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. During his summer at Pauley, his work with mentor and Pauley postdoctoral fellow Moriah Bellissimo, PhD examined health-related quality-of-life outcomes for patients undergoing anthracycline-based chemotherapy. When patients go through chemotherapy now, particularly for breast cancer, [many more] people survive,” Jacob said, “but 5 to 10 years later they tend to have higher incidences of cardiovascular events, particularly heart failure. We were looking to see if there's any kind of connection between this health-related quality-of-life, skeletal muscle, and intermuscular fat that we [measured]from paraspinal muscle MRIs.” He notes that he is grateful to Bellissimo for helping him improve his statistical prowess and guiding him through the ins and outs of bioinformatics.

While in Atlanta, Jacob checked out the food scene. He found a few “hole-in-the-wall” sandwich shops and considered going to a Braves game (but couldn’t find the time). Jacob is currently looking forward to his next chapter: medical school.

Eva Trakhtman

University: The College of William and Mary
Faculty Mentor: Emily Heiston, PhD
Research Project: The Impact of Anthracycline Therapy on Cardiometabolic Health and Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction in Patients with Breast Cancer

Eva is an undergraduate at the College of William & Mary, where she is pursuing a pre-medical track and majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. Her work under her mentor, Pauley postdoctoral fellow Emily Heiston, PhD, focused on the relationship between chemotherapy and cardiometabolic health outcomes and their effects on how well the left ventricle of the heart pumps blood to the body. This was her first time presenting at a conference, and Eva notes that she was quite nervous at the outset. But, when it came time to present, it was wonderful,” she recalled, “people are very friendly, and I realized I knew a lot more than I thought I did—so I became a little mini expert on the research. It was just surprising to see how many people approached and were fascinated by the topic and had so many things they could ask about, or even suggest.” She credits her success in the program (and at the conference) in part to her strong relationship with her mentor and encourages students considering a research summer at Pauley to apply!

While in Atlanta, Eva spent the entire day before the conference taking in the scenery at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This summer, she will be in training to work as an EMT.

We are looking forward to our fifth summer of the Pauley Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and to welcoming our 2024 cohort to VCU Health in May! To learn more about the program, visit:

Pauley Undergraduate Research Fellows Present at Prestigious ACC Expo (2024)
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