American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine student, Hima Bodagala, has recently taken part in a research project at Johns Hopkins University studying pathologies that affect the white matter of our brain. We are proud to announce that she will be presenting an abstract at the Society for Neuroscience 40th Annual Meeting in San Diego, which is attended by scientists and physicians from around the world.

As a pre-med student, Bodagala graduated from Rutgers University earning her degree in Psychology. She enrolled at AUA in September 2007. Prior to her research experience at Johns Hopkins, she conducted clinical research at the University of Texas – Mental Sciences Institute, where she studied impulsivity patterns in various populations including patients with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. She also took part in AUA’s Research Day, where she participated in a group that studied and presented the pathogenesis of a gram-positive bacterium called C. Difficle.

“At the time, it may have seemed like just a small step into the field but the emphasis that it created on research made a difference in the long run,” Bodagala said of her participation on AUA’s Research Day.

As a visiting medical student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bodagala was given the opportunity to work with the neurology team at the prestigious Kennedy Krieger Institute. Bodagala participated in a research project studying the different components of white matter injury in the brain. The study may provide substantial insight into diseases such as cerebral palsy, a condition that approximately 10,000 babies are diagnosed with each year in the United States alone. “Periventricular Leukomalacia or PVL is the leading cause of cerebral palsy in prematurely born infants and is associated with selective oligodendrocyte progenitor cell death and differentiation arrest. Recent studies have also demonstrated neuroaxonal injury in PVL autopsy cases,” said Bodagala. “The objective of this project was to assess axonal integrity in a mouse model of ischemia-induced neonatal white matter injury.”

While undertaking this research, she has developed a greater appreciation for the research community as it affects healthcare immensely. “The complexity of diseases that affect the white matter is what initially got me interested in this specific research,” said Bodagala. “But I’m also grateful that I got to learn about the time and the process that it takes to explore any one component of medicine. I am fortunate to have learned that lesson from such an amazing team at Kennedy Krieger Institute.”

She appreciates how AUA fostered confidence in her and other students in committing to research projects. She also strongly recommends that AUA students participate in research at some point during their medical education. “I believe that those of us who go into medicine are pretty much signing up to be lifelong students. So it’s important to find out which field a medical professional would like to spend their life studying,” said Bodagala. “Research is a really great way to find out what field a medical student might want to pursue as a career. It helps you to focus on a particular condition or field and this may in turn help you decide your path in medicine.”