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Impact of the Second Annual Mississippi IDeA Conference for Biomedical Research

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 10:56am | By: Kendra Ablaza

A group of 350 faculty members, plus graduate and undergraduate students, in the biomedical research field comprised the largest annual gathering of biomedical students and professionals in Mississippi during the 2019 Mississippi IDeA Conference held last month at the Hilton Jackson in Jackson, Miss.

Of the 139 poster and 29 oral presentations and 13 graduate and professional school exhibitors, there were scientific sessions covering some of the most urgent health disparities in Mississippi, from obesity and cardiometabolic diseases to infectious disease and immunology.

“We recognize that promoting health in our state is not limited to laboratory research, and that it should include engaging communities … as we seek to address health disparities in our state,” said Mohamed Elasri, director of the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) based at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Mississippi INBRE features some of the latest research from scientists and students based at universities and institutions throughout the state.

Some of the important research and highlights from the conference:

  • Jaqueline Reese-Smith of the Mississippi INBRE Telenutrition Center at The University of Southern Mississippi gave a presentation titled “Telenutrition Center Pilot Intervention: Developing and Testing an Intensive Behavior Therapy for Obesity Program Targeting African Americans in Mississippi,” that highlighted factors associated with high obesity regions are reportedly southern states, rural and minority populations who also report limited financial resources. The presentation suggested that one modality of reducing obesity related health disparities is programs that are pathways for improving health education within communities and provide resources that are often nonexistent within those communities. This pilot intervention aimed to develop and test an intensive behavior therapy for an obesity program targeting African Americans in Mississippi.
  • Tammy Greer of the Mississippi INBRE Telenutrition Center and School of Psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi gave a presentation titled “Okla Achukma: The Development of a Multi-faceted, Culturally-Adapted Community-Based Intervention to Address Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Southeastern American Indian Populations” that highlighted how Southeastern Native Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity and chronic diseases that respond to diet and physical activity interventions. A study addressed mental and physical aspects and explored spiritual aspects of healthy living. Variables such as community or family support and spirituality were identified as important to combatting health behavior change for Native Americans and Southeast Native Americans. Results from this study will be used to tailor health interventions based on native cultural values and community strengths to improve risk factors related to preventable chronic diseases and reduce health disparities among Southeastern Native Americans.
  • Michael Stefanek, associate director for cancer control, epidemiology and disparities research at the Cancer Center and Research Institute at University of Mississippi Medical Center also gave a presentation titled “Cancer Control in Mississippi: Promoting Research to Make a Difference.” It gave an overview of cancer control and the cancer continuum, and the importance of interdisciplinary work in cancer control occurring in the state. He addressed some data on state cancer incidence and mortality, and the role of decision making in cancer control.
  • The conference also organized an interest group titled “The Voice of Community-Academic Partnerships” with the goal of sharing community academic experiences and lessons learned with a professional audience.
  • To promote more impactful student training, undergraduate students in Mississippi were able to present their research to other scientists in the state. Students were also invited to a “Student Mentoring Breakfast” with scientists and professors to chat about career steps and how to overcome obstacles. The conference also hosted workshops on how to build and highlight transferable and relevant career skills. Finally, keynote speaker Dr. Isiah Warner, a scientist involved in mentoring students, spoke about his career in science and how he overcame obstacles. His speech was titled “Mentoring: Guidance along the Yellow Brick Road from Bunkie, LA to Endowed Chair at Louisiana State University.”