Biomedical program talks healthcare in Appalachia

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Research into crucial issues facing Appalachia, including obesity and its complications, are the focus of a new graduate program approved by the Board of Governors, said the vice dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. 

“The goal is to look at the research that we can do in the (Robert C. Byrd) biotech building to primarily serve the healthcare needs of West Virginia and Appalachia,” Dean Uma Sundaram said.

Sundaram said Entitled Biomedical Research, the new graduate program, will allow graduate students to address the issues of obesity and its medical complication as it affects Appalachia and other areas like gastroenterology and neurology.

“We are the most obese state in the country and complications with obesity such as diabetes, hypertension, breast cancer in women, colon cancer in men, hepatitis and liver disease, across the board we are always number one,” Sundaram said.

The Master of Biomedical Research empowers students to combat this issue facing Appalachia while staying at Marshall University as opposed to another graduate programs, Sundaram said.

“One of the thing I, President (Jerry) Gilbert and Provost (Jaime) Taylor very much agree on and are working toward is to be able to tell students upfront that not only will you get a good undergraduate education, but you have opportunities and advantages in pursuing a medical career, biomedical career or postgraduate career,” Sundaram said.  

This idea coming to fruition through the Biomedical Research Master’s program and a combined Bachelor of Science to doctorate or BSPHD program which will allow students various advantages, Sundaram said.  

Sundaram said through this avenue, students will finish in seven years—as opposed to nine— the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) will be waived if the student keeps a 3.5 GPA or better through their bachelors, and for the PHD, students receive a tuition waver, health insurance and a stipend of $25,000.

The Biomedical Research program has grown out of a transformative grant by the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, Sundaram said. 

“About a year and a half ago we got a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant from the NRH (National Institute of Health) for about $12 million to train the next generation of biomedical scientist in nutritional obesity research,” Sundaram said. 

That next generation is also seen in urban and rural minorities where the same issues facing Appalachia are present, Sundaram said, and the school wants to address that by encouraging underrepresented minorities to assist in combatting this issue together.

That incentive has taken the form of the Summer Research Internship for Minority Students, or SRIMS, which engages these minority students to address the both Appalachia and their own communities, Sundaram said.

Students interested in more information can message Uma Sundaram at [email protected] 

Ralph May can be contacted at [email protected] real