Sept. 3, 2014 | L.A. BioMed Fellowship

Only 18 students were selected from across Los Angeles County. FOUR of those students were females from POLAHS!
Seniors Ivie Slaton, Grace Anderson, Raven Johnson, and Lia Lopez (POLAHS ‘14) gained firsthand experience in biomedical research, working alongside accomplished medical scientists throughout the eight-week program. At the Culmination Ceremony in August, the students presented summaries of their research projects before heading off for their freshmen year of college.
Q&A with Ivie, Grace, Raven, and Lia
I’d like congratulate all of you on your selection for this prestigious opportunity. You’re pioneers… the first POLAHS students to participate in the Fellowship!
Why did you decide to apply for the Fellowship? Spring semester of senior year is a very busy time!
Ivie |My loving English teacher, Ms. Clark, was reviewing my personal statements for college. Knowing that I wanted to become a bio-medical major, she forwarded me the UCLA BioMed application - and it was a PERFECT fit! I applied right away.
Raven | I have been interested in pursuing a medical career since elementary school, so the Fellowship seemed like a good push in that direction.
Lia |I first heard about this opportunity through an email from Mr. Yourman. I viewed this as an opportunity to see if the medical field was right for me, and it didn’t hurt to know that I would be getting paid, too.
What research department did you end up working for?
Ivie | I worked under a pediatrician, Dr. Dickson, in the Genetics department. The Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) (metabolic disorders) lab was quite amazing. During our clinic days I was able to see how people my age were affected by MPS. It inspired me to work hard.
Lia |I ended up working in the women’s health clinic with Dr. Anita Nelson, and medical student Roshni Kakaiya.
Raven |Though I had initially applied to work in either neuroscience or pediatrics, I was assigned to the cardiology department, and it was an invaluable way to get involved in activities outside of my comfort zone
Grace | I worked in the psychiatry department with the Department of Mental Health (DMH). I worked closely with my mentor, Astrid Reina, director of the HIV Mental Health Services and the Women's Behavior Health Services department(s).
What type of training did you receive for the job?
Ivie | I received training for everything I did in the lab and was able to use the lab conversions that I learned in Chemistry class. I learned how everything gets cleaned in the lab to actually preforming and using all the machines in the lab.
Raven | I studied the basic anatomy of the heart, specifically the placement and typical behavior of the coronary arteries, and the dynamics of looking at computed tomography (CT) scans using different computer programs.
Grace |As I was in the DMH, I did not receive any lab training, but instead learned data analysis and compression, information extraction, and a large amount of Human Research violation training, that prepared me to work with patients and keep any personal identifiers completely confidential.
Lia | For me I didn’t have as much training because I was not working in a lab. Instead I was working on surveys and some training I got for that was how to approach women and ask if they were willing to answer personal questions on birth control.
What were you duties and responsibilities?
Raven | I was responsible for looking at anonymized CT scans of different patients' hearts in order to measure the amount and density of calcified plaque within the coronary arteries.
Lia | My duties were to approach women who were 18-45 years old and ask them questions about how they viewed birth control and its efficacy.
Grace | I compiled a database of de-identified, non-protected Health Information from patients previously followed during a program for pregnant teens through the Women's Behavioral Health Service (WBHS) in the Department of Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (HUMC). The purpose of this database was to assess the bio-psychosocial needs of the pregnant teens self-reported during the program. The data was analyzed to improve services offered to patients with various morbidities and psychological needs, as well as encourage grant development to secure external funding for some of the services provided by WBHS. Finally, I used this information to complete a research paper (and visual aid) describing the health disparities experienced by the teens.
Did you enjoy working with a mentor?
Raven | The LA BioMed employees who worked with me were amazing teachers and wonderful people. They made me feel at ease with my work and comfortable enough to confidently contribute to the study.
Grace |Yes! My mentor (Astrid Reina) was a great asset to me and despite her hectic work schedule, she always made time to sit down with me and discuss my project as well as various aspects of the WBHS department. She helped me greatly with my research paper, tirelessly editing it for me and helping me improve my work. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Lia | I really enjoyed working with my mentors (Dr. Nelson and Roshni Kakaiya). They were both very understanding and helpful during my time there. I was allowed to shadow a Pediatrician (Dr. Lynn Smith) in the Neonatal Unit of the Hospital. It was an experience that I greatly enjoyed and even urged me to as focus on the Neonatal department in my future.
Please describe your research project.
Ivie | Mucopolysaccharidosis type III (MPS III, Sanfilippo syndrome) is an inheritable lysosomal storage disease caused by an excessive amount of glycosaminoglycans accumulation. My project involved studying a potential treatment for MPS IIIC, an inheritable lysosomal storage disease. We performed various lab tests and experiments to identify if a particular fusion protein can be a feasible model for treatment.
Lia |My research project consisted of surveying around 400 women about how they viewed birth control and its effects. I came to the conclusion that many women do not know the efficacy of birth control, which could lead to increased rates of unintended pregnancies.
Raven | The research project I worked on was a study into a new method of measuring calcified plaque. Rather than looking at the overall amount of plaque within the coronary arteries, we took each individual plaque and measured each one's density, size, and position in the arteries.
Grace | My research project dealt with the variety of issues surrounding teen pregnancy. I discovered that a majority of patients reported feelings of depression and anxiety. Many of the self-report measures showed the patients to have typical high-risk behavior, including use of substances, contractions of sexually transmitted diseases, and involvement in community and family violence. Understanding and assessing the information received from the teens followed during the program could help discover various common factors surrounding teen pregnancy, as well as improve treatment offered.
What’s next for you?
Ivie | I’ll be starting my pre-med program within the College of Math and Science at CSU Northridge this fall, studying Microbiology. I’d like to thank my POLAHS scholarship donors, Mr. Mark Martis, Imperial Capital, and South Bay Business Women’s Association, for allowing me enroll in college and dorm there, too.
Raven |I am heading off to Dartmouth College in a few weeks as a Biomedical Engineering major. I received a generous amount of financial aid from Dartmouth as well as scholarships from Toyota Motor Sales , USA and the Charter & Autonomous School Leadership Academy.
Grace |I am currently attending San Francisco State University. I plan to graduate with honors and attend medical school following my BS degree.
Lia | I will begin my first year at UC Davis as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major. I received two college scholarships, one from Exxon and another from The John Gogian Foundation!
What are your career dreams/goals?
Ivie | I applied to college thinking I would become a dentist, but seeing patients and working in the lab changed my whole perspective. I realized that helping people is something I’ve longed for my whole life. I want to become a doctor! One day, I will be Dr. Slaton, alumnus from POLAHS. In the meantime, I’ll continue to serve people in my community and earn top grades.
Raven | I hope to become a pediatric neurologist, a neurosurgeon, a film editor, or a writer. Who knows, maybe I can be all four.
Grace |After my summer at LABiomed I have decided to pursue medical school. Spending eight weeks with exceptionally bright individuals and learning the ropes working in a professional, medical setting has inspired me to become a doctor. Wish me luck!
Lia |My goal is to become a pediatrician and go to underprivileged countries, helping children there. I want to study abroad in different countries, like Ecuador and Germany in order to learn how they treat patients, observe their techniques, and follow their guidance. I also want to help Latinos here in the U.S realize that we can achieve higher goals and that we can be anything we want as long as we have the desire to be successful.
Thank you, ladies!