Three students will present at Delta Omega poster session

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Three USF College of Public Health students, Jan Dahrendorff, Kristi Miley and Emma Tumarkin, have been selected to represent University of South Florida at the Annual Delta Omega Student Poster Session.

The prestigious Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health holds the poster session to encourage and recognize the public health leaders of tomorrow.

Each year, finalists are selected from thousands of abstracts nationwide to present their research. Presentations are held during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) Meeting and Exposition. This year the meeting and poster session will be held virtually from October 24-28 in San Francisco.

“Once again, congratulations, Kristi, Jan and Emma for your excellent work, and thank you for representing our COPH so well,” said Ellen Kent, coordinator of USF Health Service Corps and Sunshine ERC. “In fact, this is actually the second year in a row that all three of our student nominees for the National Delta Omega Poster competition were selected as finalists.”

COPH graduate student Jan Dahrendorff (Photo courtesy of Dahrendorff)
COPH graduate student Jan Dahrendorff (Photo courtesy of Dahrendorff)

Graduate student Jan Dahrendorff is presenting his research on differentially expressed genes of people who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of adults.

Titled, “Differential expression of mitochondria-related genes is associated with PTSD development in a prospective, community-based cohort,” Dahrendorff and his research team took whole blood samples both before and after trauma exposure to look at the participants’ gene expression to identify genes that were significantly differentially expressed among participants who did or did not develop PTSD following trauma.

He noted that 10 of the 57 differentially expressed genes were mitochondria-related and were up-regulated in cases vs. controls. Their results suggest that differential gene expression in mitochondrial genes may play a role in the development of PTSD in their community-based cohort.

Dahrendorff said that this research is meaningful to him because PTSD is a significant public health issue given the high prevalence of around 7% and that he’s interested in the genomics of psychiatric disorders. He believes that genomic studies can contribute greatly to the understanding of psychopathologies.

“I am very excited to be able to present our research and represent the COPH,” Dahrendorff said. “It’s unfortunate that the conference cannot take place in person due to the pandemic but I am happy they will arrange a virtual meeting where people can share their research and ideas.”

He also said that he’s was so happy to be selected as a presenter and is grateful for the amazing research opportunities provided by my mentors Drs. Monica Uddin and Derek Wildman and that he hopes viewers become more interested in, and aware, of the genomic underpinnings of complex psychiatric disorders like PTSD.

“I also think that longitudinal transcriptomic study designs can help us to identify novel molecular factors impacting psychiatric risk and resilience in post-traumatic stress disorder which can potentially help inform diagnostics and interventions,” Dahrendorff said.

PhD candidate Kristi Miley, MSPH, at USF Health Research Day (Photo by Zachary Murray)
PhD candidate Kristi Miley, MSPH, at USF Health Research Day (Photo by Zachary Murray)

PhD candidate Kristi Miley, MSPH, will be presenting her work on eastern equine encephalitis virus titled, “Protecting against a viral invader: An examination of eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) activity in Florida”. This research represents an interprofessional collaboration between three Florida Mosquito Control Districts and the University of South Florida’s Global Health Infectious Disease Research Center.

Although rare, EEEV is a highly pathogenic mosquito-borne illness with a mortality rate of 35%. EEEV has also been documented to cause severe life-long neurological deficits in survivors. Both humans and horses can be impacted by this illness, with horses experiencing a mortality rate approaching 100%. Although there is a vaccine available for use in horses, there is no FDA approved vaccine available for humans.

“As a horse owner with 18 years’ experience in the field of veterinary medicine, I have long been intrigued by zoonotic illnesses and choose the research realm in hopes of bettering the outcomes for both humans and animals affected by mosquito-borne illnesses,” Miley said.

Miley said that she’s excited to present her research as much of her research has been focused on establishing preventive strategies that could reduce EEEV transmission and provide mosquito control districts with the tools they need to reduce or eliminate the primary vector mosquito which transmits the virus.

“I look forward to communicating this knowledge in hopes that others may find ways to implement similar strategies for other mosquito-borne illnesses of public health importance,” she said.

Miley said that she is truly honored to have been accepted to represent the Delta Omega Chapter and the COPH.

“It is a privilege to share my work on a platform that will disseminate information regarding this rare and potentially deadly virus and how we might alter future health implications,” she said.

“As a researcher, I believe it is my duty to pass along any information that may assist in reduction of disease and improve health outcomes,” Miley said. “’My practice is my passion’ is not just a motto for the COPH, it is what I breathe in, live for and love.” 

Undergraduate student Emma Tumarkin (Photo courtesy of LinkedIn)
Undergraduate student Emma Tumarkin (Photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Undergraduate student Emma Tumarkin will be presenting her research topic, “Developing an assessment tool for a refugee youth after school program,” that she and her co-author, Tomas San Juan, created to help the local refugee organization, WOKE inc. 

“Research to me is the gathering of knowledge that will lead to the advancement and betterment of our society and community,” she said. “It is the question “how can we help make this better?” that helped to inspire our research with WOKE inc.”

Tumarkin said that she is excited to present and attend the APHA meeting and exposition this year.

“Being selected as a presenter is such an honor. I have read the titles of some of the other presenters and I feel so humbled being able to present alongside other incredible researchers and students,” she said. “As devastating as this year has felt to many of us, I look forward to hearing what professionals in the field have been able to take away.”

Tumarkin also hopes that individuals are able to learn more about refugee youth and assessment development after listening to her research and poster presentation.

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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