Annual research forum showcases the scholarship of Maine’s medical students

COM student Jenson Kaithamattam points to his research poster as he presents at the the COM research forum
Medical student Jenson Kaithamattam presents his research on at COM's annual Fall Research and Scholarship Forum.

Dozens of medical students convened upon the University of New England’s Portland Campus for the Health Sciences on Friday, Oct. 13, to share research findings and revel in the spirt of scholarship.

Sixty-four students in the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNE COM) gathered in Arthur P. Girard Innovation Hall for the college’s annual Fall Research and Scholarship Forum, which brings together research-engaged students from Maine’s medical school to showcase individual and group projects completed over the course of their medical education. Students from all levels of medical school participated in the research forum.

Faculty, professional staff, and other members of the UNE community also joined the event, which saw over 400 attendees and featured a keynote address by Ross D. Zafonte, D.O., president of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as a juried poster contest.

Jane Carreiro, D.O. ’88, vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the college of medicine, gave opening remarks, and Marilyn Gugliucci, M.A., Ph.D., professor and director of geriatrics education and research in UNE COM’s Division of Geriatrics, acted as master of ceremonies.

Grace Simonson (D.O., ’26), of western Maryland, said the event was a great way to introduce students to the real-world applications of their research.

“We can do this work and then we get to present it and explain, ‘Here is why my work matters,’” she said. “The symposium is also a great way to get students involved in research. I personally used it as a resource to find a research mentor last year. I wouldn't be doing the work I am today if I hadn't met my mentor at the symposium and saw the interesting research she was conducting.”

Simonson’s presentation highlighted research by her and mentor Susan Wehry, M.D., associate clinical professor in UNE COM and principal investigator of AgingME, about a series of seminars they hosted for older adults across Maine to discuss worries about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The educational programs, called “The Aging Brain,” ultimately seek to assuage older adults’ fears about developing dementia and to flip the “doom-and-gloom” script on the disease to one of hope and inclusivity. The presentations discuss how dementia is not inevitable and how, for those who develop it, it is not a death sentence.

Simonson’s presentation earned her the bronze award in clinical research for her poster, “Alleviating Worries of Dementia Among Older Adults Who Attend an Aging Brain Seminar.”

Kathleen Becker, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences and chair of the UNE COM Research and Scholarship Committee, said the research forum allows students to develop their presentation skills while showcasing their research to the community.

“The UNE COM Fall Research and Scholarship Forum serves as a celebration of our students’ research achievements while offering a platform for them to exchange ideas with the broader medical and scientific community,” Becker remarked. “This experience helps our students to develop valuable presentation skills and underscores their dedication to advancements in medicine, spanning across clinical, translational, and basic science research areas.”

Students gather at the forum

Sarah Lafleur poses in front of her poster

Anna Holcomb poses in front of her poster

Grace Simonson (D.O., ’26)

View the Full List of Award Recipients

Clinical Research Awards:

  • First Place: Olivia Esteireiro (D.O., ’26), “Use of Group Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Promong Treatment-Resistant Mental Health.” Mentored by Selma Holden, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.
  • Second Place: Vasiliki Patsiogiannis (D.O., ’27), “Emergency Department in Home: A Novel Approach to Delivering Acute Care to Patients in the Home.” Mentored by Evan Berg, M.D.
  • Third Place: Grace Simonson, (D.O., ’26), “Alleviating Worries of Dementia Among Older Adults Who Attend an Aging Brain Seminar.” Mentored: Susan Wehry, M.D.

Basic Science Research Awards:

  • First Place: Siddhant Sharma (D.O., ’25), “Bile Acids Partially Mediate the Bone Reduction and Marrow Adiposity Loss Caused by Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy in Mice.” Mentored by Ziru Li, Ph.D.
  • Second Place: Jeyrie Ramos Aponte (D.O., ’26), “Gastric X/A-Like Cells Mediate Effects of Gut-Bone Axis on Skeletal Homeostasis.” Mentored by Ziru Li, Ph.D.
  • Third Place: Gabriel DeOliveira (D.O., ’26), “Transection of the Saphenous Nerve Results in Denervation of the Tibia with Modest Changes in Cortical Bone Mineral Density in Female Mice.” Mentored by Kathleen Becker, Ph.D.