Matt Schorr
April 4, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Meharry Medical College (MMC) prides itself on being one of the first medical schools to hold a Student Research Day.

The annual event dates back to 1956 and was held in connection with Meharry’s 80th anniversary. Dr. Charles W. Johnson founded the program, and Dr. Landry E. Burgess was its first chairman.

Students, residents and post-doctoral fellows in the Schools of Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine and Graduate Studies and Research have participated for the past six decades. This year, more than 100 presented research projects were presented ranging from cancer prevention to reproductive care.


Ky’Era Actkins

Ky’Era Actkins, a research intern with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, won first place with her presentation, “Development of a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Algorithm to Identify Cases in Electronic Health Records.”

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders among reproductive-age women, and one of the leading causes of infertility,” Actkins described in her presentation.

She and four other authors – Donald Hucks, Peter Straub, and Lea Davis from the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and Melissa Wellons from the Vanderbilt Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism – developed two algorithms to identify racial and ethnic differences in genetic risk associated with the disease.


Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI

Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Executive Director and Vice President for Health Equity, Vanderbilt University Medical Center,  Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI gave the James E. Pulliam Memorial Lecture: “The Science of Engagement, Health Equity and the Promise of Precision Medicine.”

Precision medicine, she explained, was a new way to treat and prevent disease. It includes the many ways individuals are different by where they eat, work, live and play.

“In other words, their lifestyles, environment and genes,” she said. “Instead of looking at people based on averages, what if we could know – based on your physiology and ancestry – the best healthcare for you?”

Conducting precision medicine research in diverse populations, she reasoned, allowed clinicians to better understand human biology, improve the application of findings to all populations and realize the impact of strategies intended to affect outcomes at the individual level.


James E. Pulliam

James E. Pulliam assumed chairmanship of the Student Research Program after Dr. Burgess’ retirement. He held the position until his untimely passing in January 1991.

The Student Research Day Committee unanimously voted to name the Student Research Day lecture in his memory that same year.


About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.