Touro’s Eighth Annual Research Day Brings Together Experts from across Schools and Disciplines

Event Highlights Autism and Student-Led Research

June 05, 2019

The breathtaking scope of Touro College was on display during the school’s eighth annual college-wide Research Day held at Touro’s Harlem Campus on May 7.

More than 200 students and faculty members attended the event which featured 167 poster research presentations across a wide array of disciplines—from an analysis of cognitive impairments caused by concussions in NHL players to barriers in employment for Asian social workers to the effects of isolated attention on motor and cognitive performance.

This year’s Research Day was sponsored by Operant Systems Inc. and Designs for Vision.

“Touro’s reach, both in terms of academic offerings and experiential community-based learning opportunities is unparalleled, and we are determined to explore and further develop a wide array of applied and theoretical knowledge,” said Dr. Alan Kadish, President of Touro College. He called the conference, “the harbinger of better research to come out of the institution.”

Participating Touro schools included Lander College of Arts and Sciences (LAS), Lander College for Women—the Ann Ruth and Mark Hasten School, Lander College for Men, School of Health Sciences, New York School of Career and Applied Studies, Touro Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem and Middletown, Touro College of Pharmacy, Graduate School of Business, Touro College of Dental Medicine, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Jewish Studies and Graduate School of Social Work.

The event focused on autism and featured speeches by two leading researchers, Marvin Natowicz, M.D., Ph.D., medical geneticist and clinical pathologist at the Cleveland Clinic and professor of Pathology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, and Susan Courey, Ph.D., program chair of childhood and special education at Touro College’s Graduate School of Education.  In addition, earlier in the day a small symposium of autism researchers from across the college took place, where those researchers were able to share knowledge about their research and seek opportunities for collaboration.

“In light of Touro’s scholarly diversity, we decided to have our speakers focus on different elements of autism, both from a biomedical perspective and from an educational research outlook,” said Salomon Amar, D.D.S., Ph.D., Touro’s Provost for Biomedical Research.

During his speech, Dr. Natowicz, a renowned expert in neurodevelopment, delivered a wide-ranging and comprehensive medical perspective of autism, from the condition’s first diagnosis in the 1940’s to the most recent and cutting-edge analysis of the phenotypes involved in the disorder.

Dr. Courey offered audience members a first-hand look at how parents dealt with the diagnosis; their fears for their children as well as their aspirations for their future. Dr Courey also offered practical advice for classroom and home management techniques for children with autism.

“Many parents—once they accept that their child has the condition—talk about their child’s strengths,” said Dr. Courey. “They say they wouldn’t have had it any other way.’

This year’s conference was also the first to grant awards to student-led research projects honoring papers in two different categories: Biomedical, Health and Natural Sciences; and Arts, Humanities, Social, Behavioral and Educational Sciences. TouroCOM Middletown students Tabina Syed, Maisie Orsillo and April Perez-Moore received first place for their paper, “Recommendations for a Protocol-based Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment as Adjunctive Therapy for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.”  Lander College for Women student Elana Friedman, who worked with TCOP’s (Touro College of Pharmacy) Dr. Zvi Loewy, took second place with her paper “Chemical Effects on Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Biofilm Dispersion,” which looked at the effect of common denture cleaners on dispersing oral biofilms, colonies of harmful microorganisms in the mouth.

In the latter category, Evelin Stavnitser, of New York School of Career and Applied Studies, received the first-place prize for her paper, “Preliminary Analysis of Self-Stimulating Behavior in Conversation.” Touro College of Medicine in  Middletown students Johnny Truong and Mason Thornton received second place for their paper, “A Cast Study of Somatic Conversion.”

The best papers published in 2017 by faculty members, as judged by the Touro faculty members that make up the Touro College Research Collaborative, were also given awards divided into the same categories. TouroCOM Harlem professor Mikhail Volokitin, DO, received first place for “Osteopathic Philosophy and Manipulation Enhancement Program: Influence on Osteopathic Medical Students’ Interest in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine,” published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Steven Pirutinsky, Ph.D., of Touro’s Graduate School of Work, received first place in the Arts and Humanities category for, “A Paradigm to Assess Implicit Attitudes Towards God: The Positive/Negative Associations Task,” published in Journal of Religion and Health

Poster Presentations

After the keynote speeches, students and faculty members mingled by their poster presentations in a cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas in the TouroCOM Harlem hallways.

“It’s important for people to challenge your conclusions,” said School of Health Sciences Doctor of Physical Therapy candidate Daniel Vapne, who together with fellow DPT student Pat Pasquini spoke about their research on the use of a smartphone app to measure joint mobility. “It allows you to refine your ideas to the best version of itself.”

LCW student Rachel Pacht, along with LCW's Dr. Randi Sherman, looked at the correlation between Biblical Hebrew literacy skills developed in Jewish schools and Modern Hebrew fluency among Orthodox Jewish college students. Their results indicated that students with weak Biblical Hebrew skills tended to have equally weak Modern Hebrew skills. However, strong Biblical literacy skills did not correlate with strong Modern Hebrew skills. "The curriculum in Orthodox schools is mostly reading and writing and that can teach you how to read and write a language, but it won't teach you how to speak it," said Pacht.

An enterprising group of TouroCOM Harlem students studied the perception future DOs had on alternative medicine like acupuncture, reiki and dietary supplements. “It was a polarizing subject,” admitted Ana Christina Reyes. “The more people understood about alternative medicine the less negatively they viewed it.”

“Touro’s really special when it comes to research,” said OMS I Alex Over. “DO schools have a bad rap when it comes to doing research, but Touro has slam-dunked every research opportunity.”

SHS DPT candidates Brandon Bullock, Annelise Delemarie and Seth Power looked at the effects of aerobic exercise for avoiding a secondary stroke. They found that simple exercise reduced blood pressure, “Traditionally, PT doesn’t focus on aerobic exercise, but it might be something we should consider.”

Research Day was an opportunity for Emily Lisanto, a student at SHS’s Physician Assistant program, Bay Shore (NUMC extension) program. “I always wanted to continue the research I did during my undergraduate years,” said Lisanto. “Research Day allows me to network and meet other researchers in the field.”

Marilyn Flores and Nini Katchiuri, of TCOP studied the effects of a drug for pancreatic cancer. The study indicated that the drug could prolong life for a year, but at an enormous financial cost. “It helped people, but it’s very expensive,” said Flores.

“Research Day is really good networking for us,” Katchiuri pointed out. “It’s good to communicate with other researchers.”

OMS I Shelia Krishnan presented a poster she delivered at the Experimental Biology conference in Orlando. During a routine dissection, she discovered an extra lobe (or accessory lobe) on the left lung in one of the cadavers. While an initial assumption assumed that this was a factor in the individuals’ death, Krishna discovered that the unnecessary lobe had, in fact, been harmless. “Someone comes in with an extra lobe in their lungs, it might look like a tumor, but they might not need to excise it,” said Krishnan.  

Johnny Truong and Mason Thornton of TouroCOM Middletown wrote up a case study on a patient they encountered on their rounds who suffered from somatic disorder, an inability to use a limb despite having no physical illness.

“It’s rare to have a case like this that you end up treating as an in-patient,” said Truong, who received an award from the Research Day organizers. “The patient’s recovery took 108 days. You need to examine the underlying causes of something like this.”