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AT ASM MICROBE 2016 CONFERENCE: (left to right)UMHS student Bernadette Schmidt, Dr. Jane Harrington & Victoria Gonzalez. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jane Harrington

 

By Dr. Jane Harrington
UMHS Course Director & Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Medical Research

 

I recently attended the ASM Microbe Conference, an international meeting for the American Society for Microbiology, in Boston, Massachusetts, June 16-20, 2016.   Former UMHS Research Elective students Bernadette Schmidt (left in photos) and Victoria Gonzalez (right in photos), both in clinical rotations, were able to attend the meeting where we presented our poster titled “Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Surfaces and Mobile Devices at Caribbean Medical School.”  UMHS students Geneviève Aubé and Katie Plemmons were additional authors on the poster; however, they were unable to attend the meeting as they were taking Step 1 that weekend.  The conference opened with a plenary talk “A Conversation with Bill Gates: Bringing the Frontiers of Science to Front Lines of Development” (see description below at the end of this post), which set the tone for the entire conference of the importance of creating a seamless link between clinical physicians and biomedical researchers. 
 
Our poster presentation was Saturday afternoon and was well attended by primarily clinicians. In summary, approximately 50% of cell phones and common surfaces, such as door handles, were contaminated with Staph aureus. Cleaning mobile devices with ethanol reduced fungal loads; however, the disinfectant failed to reduce bacterial contamination 24 hours post-cleaning.   In the microbiology wet labs, we surveyed 155 students for the present of Staph aureus in internal nares and found 18% carriage rates for methicillin-sensitive Staph aureus (MSSA) and 7% methicilin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA), a higher MRSA carriage rate than previous published rates of 4.8%.  One potential contributing factor suggested by a poster viewer is that many students share the same gym facility, which is known to harbor MRSA on surfaces. 
 
BREAK TIME: UMHS students Bernadette Schmidt & Victoria Gonzalez at the BD Diagnostics (Becton, Dickinson and Company) booth at the conference vendor fair. ‘BD is the manufacturer of the blood agar plates we used in our experiments to gain results similar to the hemolytic Staph aureus as pictured on the wall print,’ says Dr. Harrington. Photo: Dr. Jane Harrington
We took a break from talk and poster sessions and grabbed tropical smoothies at the BD Diagnostics (Becton, Dickinson and Company) booth at the vendor fair.  BD is the manufacturer of the blood agar plates we used in our experiments to gain results similar to the hemolytic Staph aureus as pictured on the wall print (see photo above). 
 
The conference was a great success and an amazing opportunity for UMHS students to showcase their research and to be exposed to the cutting-edge findings in the field of microbiology.  Student Bernadette Schmidt reflects: “I found the conference to be an inspiring experience.  It strengthened my desire to continue to stay immersed in research, and confirmed I’m on the right path!”

 

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Surfaces and Mobile Devices at Caribbean Medical School
PRESENTED IN BOSTON BY UMHS STUDENTS & DR. HARRINGTON: 'Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Surfaces and Mobile Devices at Caribbean Medical School.' Image: Courtesy of Dr. Jane Harrington
PRESENTED IN BOSTON BY UMHS STUDENTS & DR. HARRINGTON: ‘Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Surfaces and Mobile Devices at Caribbean Medical School.’ Image: Courtesy of Dr. Jane Harrington

Also at the ASM Microbe Conference
A Conversation with Bill Gates: Bringing the Frontiers of Science to the Front Lines of Development
Thursday, June 16 • 5:00 p.m. 
Bill Gates headshot

In an interview with Richard Besser, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and business leader, will discuss the state of global health and the importance of microbial sciences in basic and translational research to foster transformative innovations.
Since stepping down from Microsoft, Bill Gates has dedicated his career to helping all people lead healthy, productive lives. In 1996, Gates and his wife, Melinda, established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which focuses on improving health care and education for children around the world. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated $4 billion to support initiatives such as college scholarships for minority students, the Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines, the effort to eradicate polio, and the prevention of the spread of AIDS among youth in South Africa. By investing in discovery research and building a global network of creative minds from diverse fields, Bill Gates brings people together to address the greatest global health challenges we face. 
Besser head shot
 
Interviewer: 
Richard Besser; Chief Health and Medical Editor, ABC News

 

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.

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