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BCOM Student Selected for Prestigious Research Fellowship Grant

A member of the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine’s class of 2020 will be spending her summer conducting diabetes research in Colorado. Katherine Vidal has been selected to participate in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases summer research fellowship program.

“Katherine has been matched to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado where she will work under the guidance of some of the top diabetes researchers in the world,” said Joseph Benoit, Ph.D, director of BCOM’s Office of Research & Sponsored Programs. “Selection to this NIDDK program is highly competitive and a great honor for Katherine and BCOM. Our students continue to amaze me.”

Vidal, a native of Mandeville, Louisiana, studied political science at the University of Notre Dame. She then did two years of post-baccalaureate studies in Wyoming to prepare for medical school and spent time working at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Colorado. When she had to leave the job to start medical school at BCOM, the doctors she was working under suggested she apply for the prestigious fellowship grant, which would allow her to build upon her current research.

To apply for the grant, Vidal had to write three essays and submit a letter of recommendation from BCOM. She said she heard back within a month that she was one of 79 students selected to participate in the fellowship program spanning 12 research centers across the country.

Diabetes hits particularly close to home for Vidal who was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 10. “I would always ask the doctors questions and have them explain the test results to me. During college, I worked at a summer camp for kids with diabetes,” she said.

While she hasn’t finalized exactly what her research project will entail yet, Vidal said her interests lie in mental health and she’s hoping this experience will help solidify her decision to pursue pediatric endocrinology as her medical specialty.

“The prevalence of depression in children with diabetes is much higher than in the regular population, and is often the reason for poor glycemic control. I was really self-conscious about my diabetes when I was younger and very discrete with it. I’m much more open and empowered now. That’s where the mental health aspect of my research stems from,” she explained.

Vidal also pointed to a study she worked on at the Barbara Davis Center, which showed how increased patient-provider contact and the intervention of a social worker improved patients’ blood glucose levels, as a catalyst for her interest in socioeconomic and mental health in patient care.

This summer, she will spend almost three months working eight-hour workdays at a pediatric clinic. In August, she will attend a research symposium in Nashville where the grant recipients will present their research posters.