CCLCM students are training to become physician investigators, so it was natural that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the students sought research opportunities as a way to contribute. One such opportunity came in the form of clinical research.
Within days of the first COVID-19 case in Ohio, Cleveland Clinic began assembling an IRB-approved research registry of all patients being tested in the Cleveland Clinic health system. The registry is hosted in a secure, IRB-approved and HIPAA-compliant database. To maximize the use of this rich source of information, Cleveland Clinic leadership solicited research proposals from caregivers across the enterprise. Within minutes of the call for proposals and under the leadership of Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean of Curricular Affairs, and Scott Anjewierden (‘21), many CCLCM students began compiling their ideas and forming teams to develop research submissions. Two days later, the CCLCM student body submitted 40 proposals, representing nearly half of the 84 total proposals that were submitted by caregivers across the enterprise.
Students used their knowledge of underlying basic science principles to develop testable hypotheses using the newly formed registry. The diversity of student interest and ability was also reflected in their submissions. Some sample proposal titles included:
- Are ACE inhibitors/ARBs associated with poorer outcomes for patients with SARS-Cov-2?
- Unsupervised clustering to define distinct disease phenotypes in patients with COVID-19
- How do preexisting barriers to healthcare access affect testing and treatment for COVID-19 among racial and socioeconomic minority groups in Cleveland?
In addition to lending their brain power, some students had the opportunity to lend a hand building the database. Fifteen CCLCM students attended a training with Lara Jehi, MD, Professor of Medicine, Chief Research Information Officer and Principal Investigator of the COVID-19 registry. Students learned the science behind COVID-19 and how to enter data into the database. In a matter of only days, data was collected on thousands of the patients tested for COVID-19 at Cleveland Clinic, providing much-needed information to fight this pandemic.
Of the experience, Scott says, “It was amazing to see so many students come together and collaborate in this research effort. We were sharing and critiquing the latest research, developing hypotheses about the risk factors and effects of COVID-19, and flexing our scientific writing skills. At the time, it was a flurry of thought, but on reflection it is impressive how our four years of research training at CCLCM really came together in a time of need.”