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WesternU MSMS students present research as they prepare for future health careers

by Rodney Tanaka

April 29, 2024

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Western University of Health Sciences College of Health Sciences (CHS) held a Research Symposium for the Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) Class of 2024 on April 19, 2024.

Dr. Jenniffer Licero Campbell (left) and Dr. Sandra Banjoko speak at the MSMS Research Symposium April 19, 2024. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

The symposium featured a conversation about “Mental Health in the Health Professions” with MSMS Program Chair Jenniffer Licero Campbell, PhD, and La Sierra University Assistant Program Director of Mental Health Programs Sandra Banjoko, PhD, MPH, RDN, LMFT. Dr. Banjoko is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Dietitian. They covered several question ands topics submitted by students, including how to deal with stress and the mental health issues that health care providers deal with in the hospital.

“There are two levels. There’s burnout and then there is compassion fatigue,” Banjoko said. “Burnout is more like in the most basic terms, you’re just tired, you don’t have it in you. You’re really stressed out. You’re trying to show up and be there but mentally you just cannot take one more case. Compassion fatigue is when you can’t find an ounce of empathy or sympathy. You are just short. It’s like burnout but you just don’t have the capacity to hold space, to talk to people to even listen to what they’re going through. You’re just trying to just get through.”

She advised students to set boundaries and build a support system.

“If there’s anything I wish I knew before I got out into the real world of health care, it is to learn how to have boundaries. If you say no, stay on your no. If you feel that to keep a job, you have to accept someone ridiculing you, insulting you, or diminishing your value, you’re allowed to leave,” Banjoko said. “Do not diminish the value of having support systems. When I even think about people I know who didn’t make it through med school or didn’t make it through residency or ended up developing a psychosis mid residency, it was because they didn’t’ have support. You need people to remind you why you got into this field in the first place, why you need to stay, and why it’s worth fighting for.”

The mission of the MSMS program is to provide students with the knowledge, critical evaluation skills and research awareness that will allow them to become well-informed, evidence-based professionals able to pursue further academic training in medical and health sciences. This year spent in the MSMS program has been a wonderful opportunity for each student to discover themselves, and has prepared them for where they are going, Dr. Licero Campbell said.

“The rooms where you’re entering are rooms that you deserve to be in. They are rooms you have worked to be in. And there are spaces that need you as a professional to be able to reach out to communities and to your patients with compassion and empathy,” Licero Campbell said. “One of the major things that we deal with in this program is some of our students will come in and say ‘I don’t know if I belong here. I don’t know if this is the space for me.’ If you’re here, this is the space for you. Once you go to the space that is right outside this program, that’s the space for you, too. And when you enter the clinic, that’s your space too. Or when you enter your dental practice, that’s your space, or wherever it is you are going. You belong there, and no one can take that from you because you have gone through all the preparation and all the training to be ready for them.”

CHS Acting Dean Gail Evans Grayson, EdD, MA, (sitting) with CHS faculty at the MSMS Research Symposium. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

CHS Acting Dean Gail Evans Grayson, EdD, MA, encouraged the students to give themselves a round of applause.

“At this time, I want you all to know that each and every one of you has contributed to the body of knowledge today,” Dr. Evans Grayson said. “The posters that are out there are phenomenal and I want you to walk out with pride, with your shoulders back and standing tall. I want you to know you have given your all to this program.”

Many of these MSMS students were introduced to the WesternU campus on a rainy day in December 2022 during Preview Day.

“I want you to know that you are the seed of this program and that it is important to water yourself,” Evans Grayson said. “I also want you to know on that rainy day, eventually the storm did run out. And you’re here today. You have a couple of weeks left, and this will be one of best stories that you will be able to tell. Your educational journey that you have embarked on within our college, we are forever grateful and we appreciate all that you’ve done.”

MSMS students Justin Quintana (left) and Kenny Ngo present their poster at the MSMS Research Symposium. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

Each student presented a research poster as part of earning their master’s degree. The students stood by their poster as faculty and classmates asked them questions. The students said they appreciated the opportunity to delve into research.

“We are all looking to be health care professionals and constantly learning ways to progress not only for ourselves but for our patients as well,” said MSMS student Justin Quintana. “This gives us training to conduct research in our practices.”

MSMS student Kenny Ngo said working on his research poster provided an opportunity to not just review articles, but to design a systematic way of looking at articles to get a good idea of what’s going on in the field.

“As health care professionals, the way we practice is evidence based. As new studies come out, it’s important to keep updated with research and how it impacts patient health and outcomes,” Ngo said.

MSMS student Charita Gedela presents her poster at the MSMS Research Symposium. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

MSMS student Charita Gedela chose her research topic for a very personal reason. Her father had a deviated nasal septum and asthma and passed away in part due to his breathing issues. Her research focused on the effectiveness of septoplasty in treating nasal obstruction in adults.

“The results (showed) an overall improvement in nasal obstruction (from septoplasty) and I was really happy about to find that the results were going the way I had wanted them to go, to see that there is an improvement,” Gedela said.

She would like to expand her research to include children as well as other potential causes of nasal obstruction.

“In a way it was emotional, I did think about my dad a lot in those times,” Gedela said. “But at the same time I did think, what are the preventive methods you can actually see? That’s where I really found the cause for the whole research and that’s what I really enjoyed. The fact that I can do more research specifically on how septoplasty can improve the life of individuals is something that is motivating me even more.”

MSMS Research Symposium awardees:

First place: Nicholas Sarmiento ($5,000)

Second place: Karen De Leon Perussina and Tracy Tran ($3,000 total, $1,500 each)

Third place: Diego Avelar ($2,000)

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