Adla named Campbell Medicine 2022 Student Researcher of the Year

Akhil Adla, MS-III, was recently selected as Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine’s 2022 Student Researcher of the Year (SROY).

As the recipient of this award, Adla was also the school’s nominee for the American Association Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine’s National Student Researcher of the Year Award.

The SROY award is given to a candidate who embodies the osteopathic philosophy, demonstrates commitment to professional development, and dedication to osteopathic research.

“Akhil has demonstrated a longtime commitment to research as an undergraduate and also with a prior career in research,” said Dr. Amy Hinkelman, member of the SROY Committee. “The amount of work he has put in is incredible — over 800 hours at the at the time of [SROY] application review in December — especially considering med students have very little free time.”

Student Doctor Adla participated in the Campbell Medicine Summer Scholars program and worked with Dr. Kassim Traore to investigate the effect of monoethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) on tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production. After completing this project, he used the skills he learned to complete an additional project looking at the effect of phthalates on Leydig cells.

“Recognized for the rigor, my laboratory environment pushes students to consistently think critically as they are required to contribute in all aspect of science and technical discussions, high level of performance and apply biochemical concepts,” shared Dr. Kassim Traore, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics. “Akhil has consistently demonstrated three important strengths: intelligence, critical thinking, and strong research skills. He is consistently prepared and maintained a high level of performance in the lab, as consequence earning my respect and the respect of his colleagues.”

student and professor in lab

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Adla co-wrote a grant with Dr. Kassim Traore, and it was funded by the North Carolina COVID-19 Relief Bill. This project examined COVID-19 pathogenesis and antioxidants as potential adjunctive therapy. Akhil has returned to campus throughout his clinical rotations to continue his research.

“Akhil is the only student who I have seen who took the skills he learned during the program and used them to write and receive a grant for a different project which resulted in a publication,” said Dr. Warren Lushia, professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics. “That alone is a remarkable accomplishment for any scientist in such a short time, let alone a medical student who was doing this on his own time between studying.”

Adla’s passion and commitment to research has also been an inspiration to his peers and fellow medical students.

“Akhil has been such a great resource for all of us,” said Meaghan Nazareth, MS-II, SROY national liaison and student coordinator. “He’s passionate about his research, but also about our university and helping everyone here. You really have to make a choice to do anything outside of class [in med school], and it’s really great to see him get recognized for his work … it’s inspiring to see our older students do such great things that we can look up to.”

Throughout his time as a medical student at Campbell, Adla has also made five poster presentations and received the Highest Merit Award for Graduate Professions at the Campbell University 10th Annual Wiggins Memorial Research Symposium. The research he began in the Summer Scholars program led to him publish a first author paper and co-author an additional publication while in medical school.

In addition to being an outstanding researcher, Akhil is an active and involved student on campus. The student body elected him as the Student Government Association Vice President for 2020. He is a member of Sigma Sigma Phi and achieved the TOUCH (Translating Osteopathic Understand into Community Health) Award Silver Level in recognition for over 35 hours of community service throughout the academic year.

Student Doctor Adla was honored and recognized at a reception in early February. He took a moment to share some personal comments and thank the biomedical and research faculty that supported his research journey through medical school.

“It’s an absolute honor to receive this award,” he said. “I want to thank Campbell for giving me the opportunity to pursue everything that I’ve wanted. I wanted to pursue research, and I’m pursuing that now. I wanted to start a start-up, and I’m doing that right now. And I wanted to get a great medical education, and I’m doing that right now. It’s a real honor for me to do all of this research, especially during the pandemic, here at Campbell.”

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