June 3, 2010

Medical Scholars student’s project gains recognition

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Meharry’s Tiffany Petty speaks at the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine meeting in Toronto, Canada.

Medical Scholars student’s project gains recognition

Meharry Medical College student Tiffany Petty was recently nominated for a New Investigator award from the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) for a project she completed as part of the Vanderbilt Medical Scholars program.

The program allows medical students, at either Vanderbilt or Meharry, to team with mentors at the Medical Center and work on a research project. Petty worked with Todd Callahan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Pediatrics, and Kathryn Edwards, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Clinical Research, on a project to gauge parental perceptions of a vaccine against cytomegalovirus (CMV).

If a mother contracts CMV during pregnancy, her baby can suffer devastating effects from the virus, including mental retardation and blindness. Candidate vaccines against CMV are being tested, including one at Vanderbilt, in hopes of preventing these effects.

A vaccine against CMV is likely to be most effective if given to adolescent girls, before they reach child-bearing age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the development of a vaccine against CMV a priority.

Petty's project was the first to look at parental opinions of a CMV vaccine, and she found parents were very accepting of the idea.

“Tiffany's selection as a finalist reflects the inquisitiveness, ingenuity and perseverance she exhibited in carrying out the research,” Callahan said.

“Her success also highlights the rich environment available to students who are interested in research that is created by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, and the Medical Scholars Program.”

While Petty did not win, she was able to present her work along with the other finalists.

“I was nervous, but excited. It was an honor to be among such a great group,” Petty said. “But even more important was the opportunity to participate in the Medical Scholars program. This one-year experience was an invaluable chance to develop relationships with lifelong mentors. It reaffirms my interest in research as I begin my Pediatric residency,” Petty said.

Petty graduated May 22 and is going to New Orleans for pediatric residency at Louisiana State University.