David Goldblatt, a second-year medical student at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, is one of 66 students in the nation to receive the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Research Fellows Award for the 2018-2019 academic year.
The HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program provides students financial support for one year of full-time, mentored research training in fundamental biomedical research. Awards are given to medical, dental and veterinary students interested in biomedical research. They also have previous wet-laboratory research experience.
Goldblatt will be conducting research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on whether a specific immune stimulant could protect against asthma and other allergic disease. His yearlong fellowship begins in June.
“We are working on a model of asthma in mice. However, the underlying concept that I’m studying is a phenomenon called atopy, a phenomenon that binds food allergy, asthma, hay fever, eczema and anaphylaxis,” he said. “Atopy is the predilection to have these other illnesses, so by studying this, we might better understand the disease process.”
Goldblatt said he plans to build upon research he participated in while working at MD Anderson, before entering medical school, to determine whether the same immune stimulant can be used to protect patients against viruses that can exacerbate asthma.
Goldblatt hopes his acceptance into the HHMI fellowship will open the door to other medical students at UTRGV who have an interest in conducting research. He also hopes it spurs more research into health issues that affect the Rio Grande Valley.
“Hospital rates for asthma in Rio Grande Valley are really high and it’s unclear why,” he said. “Maybe what I learn during the fellowship can be brought back to understand why this may be happening.”