Annual Research Symposium Goes Virtual

On Monday, November 2, students, faculty, staff, and guests gathered over Zoom for the Class of 2023 to present their research findings for the Medical Partnership’s 10th annual Research Symposium.

The Medical Scholars Program is an opportunity for students to expand their scholarly experiences and learn how medical knowledge is derived. They also learn how to frame a testable hypothesis, write a research proposal, carry out a project, evaluate scientific and medical data, and write up their results. It provides them with an opportunity to communicate their findings through presentations at local, regional, and sometimes national scientific meetings.

Their findings are then presented at the annual Research Symposium in the fall. The majority of participants are second year medical students who complete research in the summer between first and second year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic fully underway, MSP had to look a little different in 2020—students had to find projects that could be done remotely from home instead of on-site.

“When the pandemic hit back in March, academic institutions around the country suspended all non-critical, on-campus research activities. Most institutions and organizations also suspended or outright banned non-essential travel,” said Dr. Leslie Lee, Associate Dean for Campus Integration & Academic Enhancement. “This put MSP in jeopardy seeing as most, if not all of the students participating in the MSP had planned to engage in research projects that would require patient contact or work in a laboratory, and many of which also involved travel.”

After much hard work and deliberation, Lee and other administrators from the Medical Partnership decided MSP would go on.

“The end result was that students were forced to either modify their original projects or work with their mentors to come up with new projects they could work on remotely from home,” said Lee. “Some students had their projects outright canceled and had to scramble to find a new mentor and essentially submit a new application to the MSP with an entirely new research proposal that could be done remotely. Fortunately, we were able to find a solution for just about everyone who had originally applied to the MSP.”

When all the research and hard work during the summer was complete, 34 M2 students presented their findings during the virtual symposium.

Each student was allowed three minutes to present their research, and the event was opened up to questions after each group (blocks of five students) had finished. The students’ posters were also put on display in Russell Hall to allow for anyone to go further examine their research.

Annelise Bonvillain looked at whether Hydroxychloroquine being used to treat COVID-19 increased mortality or ICU admissions. She took on the project with Dr. Kent Nilsson at Piedmont Athens Regional.

“It was challenging and somewhat stressful. Overall, though, considering we completed a successful research project over a 3-month period during a pandemic, I’d say my struggles were well worth it,” said Bonvillain.

Bonvillain found out that Hydroxychloroquine seemed to benefit women.

“We found that Hydroxychloroquine treatment was associated with increased ICU admission in both women and men and was associated with increased survival in women only,” she said.

“I was very grateful that I was still able to participate in MSP despite COVID,” said Bonvillain. “Being involved in research directly related to the pandemic made my MSP experience even more intriguing and worthwhile. It was fascinating to learn about the attempts to manage and treat COVID-19 early in the pandemic.”

“I want to thank all the students for their patience,” said Lee. “This was an unusual summer. We had to do a lot of scrambling to get new mentors or new projects and figure out how to do work remotely. I would like to thank the mentors for all the extra work they had to do to mentor students remotely and make it possible for them to complete a research project during these very stressful times. So, thank you, and congratulations, because I think everybody did a terrific job,” said Lee.

For a full list of presentations and abstracts, please visit our website at


For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

Learn More Apply Now