Burlington, VT — At the University of Vermont, the second annual symposium has brought together scientists and researchers to explore new ways to battle strokes, heart disease, and dementia. This is the first time the symposium is being held in person and presents researchers an opportunity to share their findings as well as providing students with a learning opportunity.

“It’s fantastic because it takes what we learn through our medical education both through the books and the hospital and be able to apply it to the ideas of what is underlying some of these conditions,” said Sam Short, a medical student at UVM. Short said he embraces the mentorship. “What they do is identify young individuals in the pipeline so medical students who are interested in these fields can learn the skills that can complement their careers so we can push these ideas forward and discover new things. 

“As a medical student, it’s a powerful experience to see someone being told their kidneys are hurt or failing in the hospital.”  

Dr. Katharine Cheung, an Assistant Professor at UVM, focused her research on kidney disease, a disease that impacts 1 of 7 adults in the U.S. Dr. Cheung says many individuals don’t even realize they have kidney disease and that it can go unnoticed for years. “Kidney disease is a little bit like blood pressure, you can lose 90% of your kidney function and not even know it.”’

Her study found that those with kidney diseases are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairments. “With cognitive impairment, there are multiple different parts of brain functioning that can be affected by brain disease, how quickly you can complete a task and remembering things that have happened recently.”

Dr. Denise Peters addressed strokes, the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., and says that physical activity can reduce the risks of strokes. “If you can just go little bits of movements every single day, especially in a world full of technology, that’s a very important thing for people to do.”  

During the symposium, students even received awards. “It’s great to be appreciated for your work,” said Swapna Balakrishnan, a Ph.D. at UVM. “It really motivates me to study further in this area.” Balakrishnan talked about her previous work in physical therapy dealing with those who had strokes and how it inspired her desire to do research.

“I wanted to really see how we can improve healthcare with individuals who live with disabilities and who have long-term health problems. If we can find a solution using technology.” 

Other students say they hope to participate in more research projects in the future.