Frank Killian Takes First Place in Student Research Day

December 20, 2002

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Frank Killian of the class of 2005 at Wake Forest University School of Medicine took first place at the 18th Annual Medical Student Research Day for his project on the viability of a trauma service in orthopedics.

Killian, a combined M.D./M.B.A. student, found that establishing an orthopedic trauma service made sense economically because it concentrated the trauma cases in a group of orthopedic surgeons, freeing the sub-specialists in the department to concentrate on elective surgery within their specialty areas. The new service also would result in improved patient care, enhanced education of residents and increased research opportunities, he said.

"Our data suggest that an orthopedic trauma service is a smart medical and business decision," he said.

Killian, who is from Asheville, worked with Mitchell B. Harris, M.D. professor of surgical sciences (orthopedics) and with two members of the class of 2003, Jimmy G. Garas and Gregory S. Freidel, who also are in the joint MD/MBA program.

"The work they performed was instrumental in our department''s decision to go forward with the service," Harris said. Kristina Tansavatdi, also a second-year student, finished in second place with a project that looked at variants of the BRCA 1 gene, which is linked to breast cancer.

Her project compared 21 women who carried different BRCA1 variants with 21 women with "normal" BRCA1 genes, to see if they would react differently to ionizing radiation (one indicator of whether BRCA1 is also involved in DNA repair.)

She found that some of the BRCA1 variants showed increased response to radiation, while others had almost no response. "Specific types of BRCA1 abnormalities seemed to predispose cells to the effect of radiation exposure than others," Tansavatdi, who is from Los Angeles, said. "Our results provide a likely explanation for the variations in clinical outcomes that we see among individuals with BRCA1 mutations."

She worked with Jennifer Hu, Ph.D., associate professor of cancer biology and public health sciences.

Kattron Rhodes Cofield of the Class of 2005 took third place for her project that focused on trying to find an early marker for ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate because it ordinarily is not diagnosed until the disease is in the advanced stages.

Cofield, who is from Wimauma, Fla. found that an enzyme, phospholipase D, is produced in excess amounts in conjunction with ovarian cancer cells and may serve as an indicator that ovarian cancer is progressing. The presence of the enzyme may offer a new focus of attack for anticancer therapy.

She worked with Brigette Miller M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and Larry Daniel, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry.

Ashley Noel Rush, 2005, from Basking Ridge, N.J., won the Women''s Health award. She worked with Eric Moses, Ph.D., and Shaun Brennecke, Ph.D., M.B.B.S., of the Royal Women''s Hospital, Department of Perinatal Medicine, University of Melbourne, Australia on a project on preeclampsia (pregnancy related high blood pressure or swelling of the face or hands.


Contact: Robert Conn (, Karen Richardson ( or Barbara Hahn ( at (336) 716-4587.

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