Widespread use of statins in the past few decades have led to a decrease in heart attacks and stroke; but what effects does the cholesterol-lowering drug regimen have on other parts of the body - specifically the skin? That's just what Ryan Trowbridge has been researching in his Masters of Science in Clinical and Translational Science program - all while also completing his medical degree and matching into residency at Harvard.
Not bad for four years of work.
The 2014 Creighton University School of Medicine graduate was a bit of an anomaly in his class. Like his peers, he knew coming into medical school that he wanted a career in which the majority of his time was spent with patients. But Trowbridge was also interested in maintaining some level of medical research to feed his need for creativity and innovation.
"I am very clinically oriented," Trowbridge explains. "For the most part in medicine, you apply what you learn but there isn?t a ton of room for creativity. Research is the more creative side to medicine."
In his first few months at Creighton, Trowbridge hit the books along with his classmates while also finding time to search for the right research mentor. In all of his conversations, one name continued to come up: Devendra K. Agrawal, Ph.D., professor of biomedical sciences, internal medicine and medical microbiology and immunology and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research. Agrawal, known by many as a research workhorse, has received continuous external funding for nearly 30 years, including continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2003.
"Dr. Agrawal was exactly who I needed," Trowbridge says. "He is ambitious, hard-working and passionate about his own research as well as the students he mentors. He gives you a lot of freedom, but expects you to be self-driven and take responsibility for your work. It was the perfect work environment for me."
Trowbridge spent the next year in Agrawal's lab focusing on the foundations of research before diving into his own study focusing on esophageal cancer. Over the following two years, he and Agrawal studied vitamin D and the incidence and treatment of esophageal cancer - publishing five times on the topic, including a comprehensive literature review on the epidemiology of the disease that helped clarify the current state of literature.
About halfway through his third year of medical school, Trowbridge decided he wanted to specialize in dermatology - the decision that led him to his current research project on the relationship between statins and the development and prognosis of melanoma. He's still in the preliminary stages of this research, but hopes to continue once he moves to Boston this summer where he matched into one of the top dermatology residencies in the country: Massachusetts General/Harvard.
"Our initial studies will dictate if this research continues. Either way, I definitely will continue to incorporate research into my training, but I will have to see what time constraints are placed on me as a resident."
One thing is for sure: Trowbridge would not be where he is today without the support and guidance from his mentor.
"Dr. Agrawal is an incredible resource here at Creighton and how much he cares about students is sometimes lost in the larger discussion of his work," Trowbridge says. "He puts his career second in order to help mentor students. I've been lucky to have him."