Last summer, CHS seniors Chad Calnon and Ryan Albert worked as interns for Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, conducting a community-based medical research study. Mentored by Ryan’s father, cardiologist Timothy Albert, these seniors were able to do their research with one of the leading cardiologists in the area and ultimately go to Hawaii to present their findings to the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography.
Though Albert and Calnon were not extremely confident that two measly high school students would be chosen to present their results in front of a variety of qualified cardiologists and radiologists, they were delighted to hear back, three months later, that their abstract was accepted out of a large pool. Scoring highly, they were told they would be presenting in the first slot on the first day of the conference.
And on Jan. 12, off the boys went to Kona, Hawaii. Tough, huh?
Two hundred doctors and graduate students also attended the conference. As their poster describing their findings hung in the conference room, two moderators and more than fifty doctors approached the boys, asking them to explain their entire study. The seniors had three minutes to explain an entire summer’s worth of work.
“It was a cool experience,” Calnon explains. “Just about every doctor looked at our name tags and wondered why we were even there. Once we started explaining who we were and why we were there, they warmed up to us and welcomed us into their elite community.”
The boys spent countless hours on their study. After months of analyzing and configuring data, Albert and Calnon determined the leading predictors of left main calcification, or calcium blockage of the left main artery. These predictors include male gender, elevated body mass index, hypertension and pre-existing calcification.
Though they only found four succinct predictors, the seniors tested for a multitude of variables, including age, race, weight and family history of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
This information, according to Albert, “will help physicians risk-stratify their patients for calcium scoring.” In other words, these findings can prompt doctors to suggest which patients should receive calcium scores and which do not necessarily need them. Calcium scores indicate calcium buildup in the various arteries of the heart. Any calcification is indicative of heart disease and left main calcification is especially deadly. During the summer, the seniors saw scores that ranged from 0 to 5,000.
“We worked all summer on configuring a database and entering data,” Albert says. “We didn’t end up writing the actual abstract until the day before it was due.”
In essence, an abstract is a one-page summary of any given research study.
“It took around sixty hours to input the data, about ten to make something of it and only three hours to write the abstract,” Calnon adds.
Despite the long hours and even though college apps have already been sent out, Albert and Calnon look to complete another study in the near future.
This June, there is another SCCT conference in San Diego, and even though it may not be as tropical and beautiful as Hawaii, the boys hope to have written another abstract and once again present to a large pool of doctors.