Research projects lead to publications for multiple students

Several medical students are now published authors following the completion of international research projects under the guidance of Hepatology Professor and longtime student mentor Anna Suk-Fong Lok, MD.

Dr. Lok’s projects explored aspects of liver disease treatment and care and included extensive on-the-ground research in China. The resulting publications, in recent issues of Digestive Diseases & Sciences and Liver International, garnered author credits for four U-M Medical School students: Fanny Du, Jiaxin Huang, Mary Guan, and Jeremy Balch.

“It’s a great experience for the students,” said Dr. Lok. “My satisfaction comes in seeing that they learned something about research and the practice of medicine in another country, and that the experience helped their careers.”

In addition to the four UMMS students, three undergraduate students, Angela Xie, Shanna Cheng and Cassandra Rodd, also contributed to the projects and are credited co-authors.

Fourth-year University of Michigan Medical School student Fanny Du visited in China the summer of 2014 on a Global REACH scholarship. She and Angela Xi surveyed hundreds of patients seen in liver disease clinics about their care experience. Those results were compared against data from patients seen in Ann Arbor liver clinics. The findings, A Comparative Study of Liver Disease Care in the USA and Urban and Rural China, have been published online ahead of print in Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

“My goal is to work with immigrant populations, so understanding the differences in the healthcare systems in the US and elsewhere will make me a better physician,” Ms. Du said. “The differences we saw were eye opening. The clinics in Beijing are crowded. People don’t make appointments and so they might wait for hours to see a doctor for five minutes. I could see why patients might be less satisfied with their care there (compared to patients in Ann Arbor), which is exactly what we found.”

A second study, Survey of Hepatitis B Knowledge and Stigma among Chronically Infected Patients and Uninfected Persons in Beijing, has also been published online ahead of print in Liver International. Third-year medical student Jiaxin Huang, along with fellow students Jeremy Balch and Mary Guan, spent several weeks in Beijing in the summer of 2015 interviewing more than 1,200 people to study stigma around hepatitis B, a prevalent disease in China. Global REACH supported their international experiences as well.

“Given our findings, we believe that public health education can improve understanding of transmission of hepatitis B and alleviate stigma towards the patients,” Ms. Huang said. “Furthermore, physicians can also actively counsel patients to reduce internal stigma. It was very satisfying to have this research published because we felt our results were important in that they revealed and quantified the stigma hepatitis B patients face every day.”

In addition to the publication, their project garnered a poster presentation at the 2015 Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association conference and an oral presentation, delivered by Ms. Huang, during the 2016 Digestive Disease Week conference held in San Diego in May.

“I mentor a lot of students, but this was the first time a student of mine was selected for an oral presentation at such a big meeting,” said Dr. Lok. “Jiaxin was speaking to a group of distinguished board-certified gastroenterologists who’ve been practicing for years or decades. You can imagine that it’s nerve wracking, but she did very well. I felt like a proud parent.”