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INBRE Offers Up-Close Research For Millsaps Students

by Web on September 26, 2018

Carlie Reeves' academic experience extends beyond her major in English and minor in chemistry.

Reeves, a Millsaps College junior from Kosciusko, Mississippi, whose career goal is to become a physician, recently conducted research about how certain genes affect metabolism of Xanax and Valium, which are among drugs used to treat anxiety.

"This is important because some people are poor metabolizers of certain drugs," she said. "If drugs that aren't metabolized in the body are taken, side effects can occur such as toxicity."

Reeves worked in the lab of Dr. Eric Vallendar at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) as part of the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Scholars program.

Ray Antonyraj, a Millsaps senior from Starkville, Mississippi, and Ian Taylor, a Millsaps junior from Pass Christian, Mississippi, were also among 64 students from Mississippi who participated in the program.

Directed by Dr. Mohamed Elasri, a professor at The University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi INBRE is a statewide program supported by an award from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. The mission is to enhance the biomedical foundation in Mississippi and to reach out to Mississippians in order to improve health throughout the state.

Reeves and Antonyraj joined in the program's research track, which places students in labs to gain experience in biomedical research. Taylor took part in the Service Scholars track, which ties biomedical research to public health practices by serving the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, and Jackson communities alongside My Brother's Keeper, Inc.

Antonyraj's research with the neuroscience department at UMMC focused on drug abuse addiction, specifically fentanyl.

"Fentanyl is more potent than illegal heroin but is legal since it has very good medical uses," he said. "This means it can be more easily distributed and sold illegally. I hope awareness of this drug and its effects will be useful to the science/medical community and will in turn bring awareness to my fellow Mississippians, and, together, we can make our home a healthier place."

Antonyraj, who is majoring in neuroscience and cognitive studies with a minor in music, plans to attend medical school and conduct neuroscience research after graduating from Millsaps.

Taylor explored the field of public health as part of the Service Scholars track. "As someone who has a background in science and is planning on going to medical school, I felt that it was important to get hands-on experience and to have a better overall view of how community-based programs address health concerns in the state," he said.

The program was helpful because it provided the experience of working at Open Arms Healthcare Center, where the emphasis is on taking care of anyone and everyone, Taylor said.

"Seeing this model of healthcare and seeing how caring the staff was for patients opened my eyes to the type of role I could play in the future by being a physician who shows both empathy for others and understanding for the social norms and rules that influence our health," he said.

As part of the program, Taylor attended a conference on LGBTQ+ healthcare in the state, hosted by UMMC.

"The conference opened my eyes to the enormous health disparities that people in the LGBTQ+ community face in the South and allowed me to learn more about how physicians can better serve the specific needs of these patients," he said. "Though I consider myself to be very open and understanding, this conference helped me to learn about ways of interacting with patients that I could not have known otherwise, and I feel it will be very beneficial for my future medical career."

Participation in the program "truly changed my way of thinking about health care and inspired me to continue in my pursuit of my goals," Taylor said. "I cannot recommend the program enough!"

Taylor plans to earn an M.D. and an M.P.H. with a focus on healthcare administration and policy.

"Not only do I want to practice medicine, I also want to help better the state of our healthcare system by implementing policies that open the doors for more access to healthcare and that address health disparities," he said.