Miller School Student Receives Prestigious Research Fellowship

Lulu Wong, a Class of 2019 M.D. candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, was honored with the Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship from Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. She was recognized for her student research project on potential biomarkers for slow-healing venous leg ulcers.

From left, medical student Lulu Wong with Marjana Tomic-Canic, Ph.D.

“While some ulcers heal fairly quickly, others can take years to close and are very debilitating to patients in the meantime,” said Wong, who will use the fellowship grant to continue her research. “If we can identify those slower-healing ulcers at an early stage, those patients can get advanced treatment sooner, reducing the risk of complications such as infection and amputation, which directly contribute to increased mortality.”

Working closely in the laboratory with her mentor, Marjana Tomic-Canic, Ph.D., vice chair of research and professor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, Wong is focusing on systemic biomarkers and correlating them to tissue biopsies to see if new diagnostics could be identified for venous leg ulcers.

“The potential for a simple test to detect patients whose wounds show non-healing phenotypes, such as fibrosis or hyper-proliferative, non-migratory epithelium, and predict whether or not an ulcer may heal or detect response to therapy can guide clinicians during wound management,” Wong said. Ulcers that are identified as difficult to heal can be treated with more advanced therapies earlier in the treatment course, at great benefit to the patient, she added.

“This prestigious research fellowship is well deserved,” said Tomic-Canic. “Her research during a ‘gap year’ as a medical student is of tremendous importance to the diagnosis and treatment of venous leg ulcers. It is a unique and rewarding experience for a medical student to connect the bench with the bedside. Once laboratory investigations are experienced ‘hands-on’ it profoundly changes the approach to patients and clinical practice.”

Alpha Omega Alpha’s fellowship program honors Carolyn L. Kuckein, the long-time administrator of the society, who died in 2004. First-, second-, and third-year medical students from schools with active chapters or associations are eligible.