Students present findings of first year of research

  Tuesday, November 14, 2023
  Around Campus, Research

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – NOV. 14, 2023 – One year since its founding, the UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine’s research arm is fully operational, and second-year students already are working on new avenues for treatment and prevention under the guidance of their university mentors.

Students recently shared their progress to date with each other and faculty at the School of Podiatric Medicine’s first “Research Day” at the Harlingen Clinical Education facility. Fifteen SOPM students presented posters and three gave oral presentations to an audience of 60 students, faculty and staff.

A group of students who contribute as research assistants to the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory also presented their ongoing projects. Garret Edwards, Alfonso Reyes, Nathaniel Primous, Olivia Mackey, and Peter Elvin were guided in their efforts by the laboratory's principal investigator, Dr. Claudia Biguetti, assistant professor in the School of Podiatric Medicine.

“Our entire team was truly motivated to observe our dedicated students as they shared and discussed their research findings with the academic community," Biguetti said.

Their research aims to find effective therapies for the health problems arising from diabetes and other diseases, with a particular focus on the population of the Rio Grande Valley.

"We are committed to a major goal of more deeply understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the development of diabetic foot ulcers – and to seeking solutions,” she said.


Isabella Strash, inaugural-cohort student, said the presentations gave her insight into study design, which she will incorporate into her own project. She plans to get that off the ground by the end of the Fall 2023 semester.

“I was impressed with the knowledge of my fellow students and their commitment to the research,” said Strash, who is secretary of the UTRGV SOPM’s student chapter of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).

Strash soon will start recruiting patients to implement the “3D Virtual Educational Session on the Prevention of Lower Extremity Complications for Patients with Diabetes,” which she presented.

Her study modernizes patient education with the application of a 3D virtual dissection table. She hypothesizes that seeing the development of lower extremity complications in 3D will increase newly diagnosed diabetic patients' understanding of how their condition could and should be managed – and the consequences of not seeking treatment in time.

“This will empower them to take charge of their diabetes and lower their risk of surgical amputation,” Strash said. “I am excited for this project because there has not been another study like it.”


Dr. Naohiro Shibuya, clinical professor of medicine at UTRGV SOPM, said the faculty plans to host a research day annually.

“Sharing research this way is important to help students understand the value of evidence-based medicine,” said Shibuya, ACFAS fellow.

And, although the students still have three more years of study at SOPM before taking part in residency programs, participating in the research community helps them be competitive when it comes time to apply for those positions, he said.

“Planning and carrying out a research project fosters critical thinking skills, and many of our students are engaging in the improvement of local communities,” Shibuya said.  


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.