Undergraduate research opens door to opportunity

Capstone Scholar and pre-med student uses Magellan grant to research diabetes among high-risk group

Pre-med sophomore Karlye Denner was working at a Columbia health clinic when she began to notice the high number of Latino patients who seemed at risk for diabetes. Intrigued, the Capstone Scholar from Closter, New Jersey, applied for a Magellan Apprentice Undergraduate Research Grant to conduct independent research on the issue.

“I joined a student organization that would visit the Good Samaritan Clinic, and as I got closer with the doctors, I realized there was a major problem with diabetes in the Latino community,” says Denner. “I saw all the amazing work that they were already doing and I thought it was really cool — I wanted to see if I could help the situation.”

She began by collecting data from two clinics, culling through medical records for Latino clients who had blood sugar levels that could indicate diabetes. Now in phase two of her research, she is working closely with Dr. Chris Goodman to find efficient ways to communicate with patients to provide health solutions.

“What we have done is created a list of all of our diabetic patients and have started to look at how we can proactively provide care for this group of patients,” Goodman says. “Karlye has already done some of the hard work of the data pull. The next step is to integrate patients into our decision-making in providing diabetic care.”

Denner and Goodman hope that the information gathered will support the opening of a clinic for diabetes patients so that they can receive specific diabetic solutions. Denner says her favorite part of the research thus far is working directly with patients — a point she often stresses to other students who may not realize that they can conduct research of their own.

“This isn’t research in a lab, we’re working with real people,” says Denner. “I love getting to hear their stories and being able to work with and find ways to better help them live healthier lives. A lot of students don’t realize it, but you can do research on anything that interests you, that you think could be a problem in our society, or just something you want to learn more about.”

Patrick Hickey, faculty principal for the Capstone Scholars program and clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing, echoes Karlye’s challenge to get involved in research.

A lot of students don’t realize it, but you can do research on anything that interests you, [anything] you think could be a problem in our society, or just something you want to learn more about.

Pre-med sophomore Karlye Denner

“While the Magellan Apprentice Undergraduate Research Grant facilitates the needs of Capstone Scholars to get involved in a research topic of their interest, there are many other undergraduate research grants available to any/all students should they want to pursue an opportunity to become involved in research. The Office of Undergraduate Research is one of the most student-friendly departments on campus that guides students through the research process and has assisted many students on their path to graduate school."

The Magellan Apprentice Undergraduate Research Grant has awarded more than $148,000 to Capstone Scholars since the grant program began in 2010.

All students who are awarded a Magellan Apprentice grant present their findings at Discover USC, an annual showcase of undergraduate and graduate student research from across the UofSC system and all disciplines. Denner will present at the spring 2018 showcase, but says her research will not stop there. 

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity that the Magellan Apprentice has helped me take advantage of,” says Denner. “Although the grant ends after I present at Discover USC, I will continue working to serve the patients at the Good Samaritan Clinic by volunteering my time and continuing research to help further their knowledge of public health.” 

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