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VTC Medical Student Receives Alpha Omega Alpha Fellowship

Meyha Swaroop, a third-year student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, has received the Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship awarded by the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society to help support her research studying the outcomes of patients who undergo heart valve surgery.

Swaroop’s research focuses on a procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI, which is a minimally invasive technique that utilizes catheters threaded through major arteries rather than open heart surgery.

Specifically, she is studying whether a TAVI procedure that utilizes arteries in a patient’s arm and leg has less post-operative complications than the traditional method, which involves using arteries in both legs. TAVI is considered a superior alternative to open heart surgery in patients who are a high surgical risk. The procedure has been associated with higher rates of post-operative vascular complications, but for these patients, having the procedure done with only small incisions outweighs the risk of an invasive open heart procedure.

Swaroop said new data indicates that more patients may benefit from TAVI over open heart surgery, which will likely lead to the number of patients undergoing these procedures increasing in the near future.

“For this reason, it’s important that we find ways of reducing post-operative complications,” she said. “We want to see if there is a reduction of adverse vascular outcomes by utilizing arteries in an arm and a leg rather than both legs. This particular study has significant applicability in the clinical setting, as it may improve overall quality of life in TAVI patients.”

Mentored by Rahul Sharma, assistant professor of medicine at the medical school and assistant director of Carilion Clinic’s Structural Heart and Valve Center, Swaroop will study outcome measures from TAVI patients at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She hopes this pilot study will lead to a larger, multi-institutional trial that could potentially influence clinical guidelines.

“One thing I truly appreciate about Dr. Sharma is his willingness to teach and make sure that I understand the big picture as well as intricate details of the TAVI procedure.” she said. “I am confident that the knowledge base and critical thinking skills I have gained by working on this project will help me become a better physician and clinical investigator.”

Sharma said his mentee has been instrumental in the construct and execution of the study.

“Meyha is incredibly hard-working and talented,” he said. “She has provided great contributions to the trial design and the data collection and randomization tool. I am confident that she will contribute many great things to the field of medicine in the years to come.”

With a goal to develop scientist physicians, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is one of the few schools in the country that provides a research program that is incorporated through all four years of the curriculum, with every student conducting original, hypothesis-driven research.

The school’s student research consistently receives national attention. Since the school’s inception in 2010, students have produced more than 80 academic publications and have given over 50 oral presentations and almost 300 poster exhibitions at regional, national, and international meetings.

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