English physicist Paul A.M. Dirac’s declared that, “The measure of greatness in a scientific idea is the extent to which it stimulates thought and opens up new lines of research.” In that spirit, last week Trinity School of Medicine held its annual research day on campus in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. The event featured topics from faculty and students alike with an enthusiastically received presentation by noted forensic anthropologist Dr. Anthony Falsetti as plenary speaker.
For some background, Dr. Falsetti is a board certified forensic anthropologist with more than twenty-five years of administrative, educational, laboratory, technical, field, and courtroom experience. This includes an administrative position in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina as the deputy director in the Forensic Sciences department at the International Commission for Missing Persons where he oversaw the mortuary and field activities of the Anthropology and Archaeology division. He has worked at the University of Florida where he was the director of the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory and the co-director of the William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. He has been deployed to multiple human recovery sites at several major mass fatality incidents including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the crash of TWA Flight 800, the September 11th attacks at the World Trade Center, the Thailand Tsunami, and most recently, in Haiti. For each, he filled several roles, including laboratory, field, and supervisory. He is currently a professor of practice at Arizona State University.
As plenary speaker, Dr. Falsetti presented, “3D Computed Tomography and Microbiomes: New Applications for Identification”. His work finds primary utility among medical examiners, he framed his dive into forensic anthropology as, “the application of the science/biological anthropology and archaeology that includes the systematic documentation, collection and recovery of osseous material to the legal process”. He went on to give details into the history of forensic anthropology and its requisite skills, and roles of the forensic anthropologist.
Additionally, he discussed a number of issues surrounding osteology, including biological profiles, even challenging the students to identify patient sex and age based on parts of the skeleton as well as determining elements of familial ancestry. To highlight this, Dr. Falsetti discussed a case in Delray Beach, Florida; in which a couple had moved down from up-state New York and later passed away in 2006. In clearing out their storage facility, the body of an infant wrapped in a 1957 edition of a New York newspaper, was discovered inside a suitcase. He brought relevance to his presentation by discussing the criteria used to identify the body as that of a child belonging to the couple. He concluded with a question and answer session for faculty and students, all of which was incredibly well received.
When commenting on Trinity students’ training as doctors, Dr. Falsetti noted that even if the future physicians do not go into forensic anthropology or working as medical examiners, the information he presented was important because computed tomography is an important diagnostic tool. “It’s going to be an important tool that they are going to use, and they are going to need to be able to evaluate the results and think critically about what they can do with these results.” He said that computed tomography is now used in cardiac cases especially in children with cardiac deformities, where they are visualizing them with CT and are actually printing the hearts that are one-to-one accurate, with 3D printers. “The physicians get to practice with the actual heart of the patient prior to surgery,” he said, “I think it’s a really wonderful tool. Physicians are now designing their own devices, not only for cosmetic surgery but for reconstructive surgery.”
Student and Faculty Research
The second half of the activity brought oral presentations delivered by five presenters, each challenged to address topics in and around medical education and their own experience. The goal of the day was to effectively demonstrate rigorous analytical study and proper presentation as well as pushing forward scientific inquiry on the topics themselves. Faculty member Dr. Keshab Paudel presented, “Learning Approaches among the Medical Students at Trinity School of Medicine and its Academic Significance”; while term four student, Sue Stazetski, dealt with “Effect of Personality on Personal Burnout in TSOM Students”. Joshua Zweigle, second term student, looked at “Perception of Anatomy TBL sessions by TSOM students”; Daniel Khashchuk, term four student presented, “The Estimation of Circadian Rhythms among Medical Students as one of the Tools to help in Organization of their Time Management”; and John Duke, term four student, discussed, “The Interrelationship between Perceived Stress Level, Sleep Quality, and Academic Performance among students of Trinity School of Medicine”.
Animated discussion followed each presentation. Both faculty and students posed critical questions to analyze and further interpret what was presented. Dean Linda Adkison, PhD, offered insight for the day’s activity, “What we want to do is to engage more students and faculty in research topics as the school continues to evolve. Most residencies require a research component. Activities like today will better prepare students for a future presenting at a national or international meetings during clerkship and beyond.”