University of Vermont

Class of 2015’s Hendrix Participates in NIH Diabetes Research Program

Ryan Hendrix, class of 2015
Medical student Ryan Hendrix ’15. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

Second-year University of Vermont medical student Ryan Hendrix was one of 115 medical students from 57 medical schools selected to participate in the 2012 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Medical Student Research Program in Diabetes. More than 600 medical students from 114 schools applied to the Program.

The two- to three-month summer program allows medical students to conduct research under the direction of an established scientist in the areas of diabetes, hormone action, physiology, islet cell biology or obesity at an institution with one of 17 NIDDK-funded Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Centers or Diabetes Research and Training Centers during the summer between the first and second year or second and third year of medical school. In addition to working on his/her own research project, each student views a web-cast series of seminars addressing various clinical and research aspects of diabetes mellitus and its complications. A weekly stipend is provided.

The goal of the NIDDK Medical Student Research Program is to educate students about diabetes and encourage them to consider a career including research in diabetes and its complications and to. Program consultants assist students in selecting an appropriate research project and preceptor. Prior research experience is not required.

Hendrix conducted his research at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., with mentor Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and his colleague Amy Riek, M.D. Their work, which focused on the link between depression and vitamin D deficiency in African Americans with type 2 diabetes, sought to determine the best method to evaluate depression and develop a depression analysis questionnaire to be distributed to study subjects. Through this opportunity, Hendrix gained exposure to patient interactions, writing, and basic science research. He was the first student from outside Washington University to ever work in Bernal-Mizrachi’s lab.

“Drs. Bernal-Mizrachi and Riek run an established diabetes laboratory at Washington University School of Medicine,” shares Hendrix. “My project, and my role in their lab, allowed me to investigate clinical trial design, questionnaire design and validation – all which were highly applicable to my career as a physician.”

“We need more Ryans in the future,” says Bernal-Mizrachi. “He was very enthusiastic, had a drive to learn everything he could, and built a nice project that he will continue.”

At the conclusion of the summer, Hendrix and the other 2012 Program participants presented on their work at an NIH-sponsored national research symposium held in August at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Hendrix presented his research, titled “Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Depression in African Americans with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus,” at the symposium and also submitted it to the UVM Student Scholars Poster Competition held October 5, 2012, where he was a finalist in the Health and Biological Sciences category.

“Being involved in the development and implementation of a project was so rewarding and enriching, because it allowed me to see – firsthand – the impact of our work,” Hendrix says. “The whole experience was a spin on the phrase ‘from the bench to the bedside.’ It is critical for physicians to not lose sight of how to be scientists, and I want to be involved in some aspect of research throughout my career.”