Graduate students’ research projects recognized at the state capitol

March 10, 2014

By David Martin and Greg Peters

Bliss O'Bryhim, Ph.D.

Studies of hearing loss and a leading cause of blindness in children took top prizes at the recent Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka.

Now in its 11th year, the summit provides an opportunity for graduate students at the University of Kansas Medical Center and other Kansas universities to share their research with state leaders. The students were selected based on their research's potential to benefit and impact the lives of Kansans. 

Students from KU Medical Center, the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas State University and Wichita State University presented posters on the second floor rotunda in the Capitol on Feb. 13. Judges from academia and industry identified two students from each school to win $500 prizes from BioKansas and from their school.

Greta Stamper, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Hearing and Speech in the School of Health Professions, earned the BioKansas Award for a poster describing her investigation of the relationship between noise exposure and auditory responses in humans with normal hearing.

Recent studies in animals have suggested that exposure to loud sound is more dangerous than previously believed. Stamper wanted to test the idea that temporary noise-induced hearing loss is essentially harmless and has no permanent consequences in the human ear.

Greta Stamper one of KU Medical Center's winners at the 2014 Capitol Graduate Research Summit

Greta Stamper, Ph.D. To see a video of
Greta talking about her work, click here.

Stamper devised a pilot study of how the human ear behaves following exposure to loud sound. "The type of temporary noise-induced hearing loss I was interested in what you might experience after attending a loud concert or sporting event where your hearing feels muffled for a few hours or days after the event before it returns to 'normal,'" she says.

Two commonly used clinical tests were used to measure auditory function. The results showed that people who reported being around more loud noise on a regular basis had subtle but significant differences in auditory function than people who reported being around very little loud noise.

"A lot more research needs to be done before any major conclusions can be drawn, but the results suggest that it is very important to limit our exposure to loud sound," Stamper says.

Stamper became interested in audiology in an effort to better her own condition. She has had hearing loss since childhood and wears hearing aids.

Stamper works in the lab of Tiffany Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of hearing and speech. Stamper is currently involved in a project to improve tests used in hearing screenings for newborns.

Bliss O'Bryhim, Ph.D., won the KU Medical Center Award for a poster describing research into retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease that affects babies born prematurely.

O'Bryhim is in the School of Medicine's M.D./Ph.D. program. She successfully defended her Ph.D. in molecular and integrative physiology last year and will complete her doctor of medicine in May 2015.

In her doctoral work, O'Bryhim built on a previous study suggesting that babies who receive dopamine therapy are at a greater risk of developing severe retinopathy of prematurity. Dopamine is sometimes used in the NICU in infants who have very low blood pressure that is not responding to other therapies.

Previous research was unable to determine if dopamine therapy causes retinopathy of prematurity to progress or if it is merely associated with it. Working with mice, O'Bryhim identified a gene related to severity of retinopathy of prematurity and showed that this gene produces dopamine, which exacerbates disease development. "My work suggests that dopamine directly contributes to disease progression and that babies who receive dopamine therapy should receive more intensive ophthalmic monitoring," she says.

O'Bryhim worked in the lab of Andrew Symons, M.D., Ph.D., former assistant professor of ophthalmology who is now head of ophthalmology at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. She became interested in ophthalmology during a shadowing opportunity. She was in a neonatal intensive care unit when she saw a baby receive the laser therapy that is used to prevent complications from retinopathy of prematurity.

"At that point, I started looking into ophthalmology and became fascinated by both the clinical and research aspects of this field," she says.

Other doctoral students invited to present at the Graduate Research Summit were:

Cara Busenhart, RN, School of Nursing, "The Opportunity to Act Like a Nurse: A Qualitative Analysis of Perceived Impact of Simulation on Professional Role Transition." Advisors: Kristin Stegenga, Ph.D., RN, and Wanda Bonnel, Ph.D., RN

Charles Christopher Jehle Jr., School of Medicine, "Investigating the effects of alcohol abuse on the burn patient population." Advisor: Dhaval Bhavsar, M.D.

Kristin Watt, School of Medicine, "Investigation of the roles of RNA polymerase subunits Polr1c and Polr1d in craniofacial development and the pathogenesis of Treacher Collins syndrome." Advisor: Paul Trainor, Ph.D.

On Feb. 14, undergraduate students at Kansas institutions presented projects at the Capitol. Students at KU Medical Center invited to participated were:

Laurissa Beckman and Elizabeth Powell, School of Nursing, "Patients' Perceptions of Factors that Influence Accessing and Establishing Primary Care Services." Mentors: Jill Peltzer, Ph.D., RN, APRN, and Elaine Frank-Ragan, Ph.D., RN

Avery Fischgrund, School of Nursing, "Nurse Leaders in Kansas: Roles and Goals." Mentor: Cynthia Teel, Ph.D., RN

Christopher Groutas, School of Nursing; "Unassisted Falls and Their Association With Various Nursing Workforce Variables." Mentor: Vincent Staggs, Ph.D.

Lynn Lee and Kody Henderson, School of Health Professions, "Effectiveness of the IPV-1C in Clearing Viscous Substances in a Small Airway Model." Mentor: Bethene Gregg, Ph.D., APRN

Sydney Piles, School of Nursing, "Sedentary Time in Midlife Women." Mentor: Kelly Bosak, Ph.D., APRN

Kendra Sturgeon, School of Nursing, "America's Health Insurance Plans' Rhetoric Related to the Affordable Care Act." Mentor: Debra Ford, Ph.D.

Courtney Swift and Kassy Kimbley, School of Health Professions, "Leak Compensation of the Servo-I in NIV Mode Compared to the Respironics V60: A Lung Model Study." Mentor: Bethene Gregg, Ph.D., APRN

Cassi Welch, School of Nursing, "The Effects of Nurse Education and Certification on Hospital Acquired Infections. Mentor: Emily Cramer, Ph.D.

Last modified: Apr 08, 2014