CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-5661; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: May 3, 1999
UI medical student wins national fellowship
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Eduardo Avila, a third-year medical
student at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, is one of 26 medical
students nationwide to earn a 1999 Bristol-Myers Squibb Academic Medicine
The award is designed for minority medical students who
show potential for careers in research and academic medicine. Recipients must
participate in research projects under the direction of a faculty mentor at
their respective institutions. Each fellowship award is $6,000.
Avila, who wants to pursue a career in plastic and reconstructive
surgery, plans to focus his project on "Histochemical and molecular studies
of muscle cell function in cleft palate tissue samples." Avila's mentor is
John W. Canady, M.D., UI associate professor of otolaryngology, surgery and
orthopaedic surgery, and director of the UI Cleft Lip and Palate Service.
Avila and Canady will investigate the palate muscle function at the cellular
level. They hope to explain why patients who have had their cleft palates
repaired still experience poor speech.
"This information can assist with more effective management
of the cleft palate patient during critical stages of speech development,"
said Avila, whose project responsibilities will include obtaining tissue samples
from cleft palate surgeries.
Avila is looking forward to the experience, which will
allow him to observe multiple cleft palate surgeries and gain research experience
in electron microscopy and histochemistry.
Avila's interest in medicine, and more specifically plastic
and reconstructive surgery, developed when he was an undergraduate at Brigham
Young University. It was then that he first heard of Operation Smile
a private, international, not-for-profit, volunteer medical service organization
that provides reconstructive surgery and related health care to indigent children
and young adults in developing countries and the United States. Having previously
spent two years as a church missionary in Chile, he knew how desperately the
services were needed.
"I thought, 'I want to be able to help with Operation
Smile someday,'" Avila said. "I saw the effect that cleft palates and other
deformities have when people can't get these problems fix. I cannot imagine
anything more meaningful than to go back to those little towns and do a surgical
clinic for them."
Avila has already applied for Operation Smile service
and is waiting to hear back from the organization.
Throughout his academic
career at the UI, Avila has been dedicated to both service and leadership.
He volunteers at the Free Medical Clinic in Iowa City as a Spanish translator.
He organized the Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Club at UI. Avila also
served as the secretary for Los Curanderos (The Healers), a Mexican-American
and Native American medical student service organization.
Avila eventually wants to become a professor of plastic
and reconstructive surgery at a cutting-edge university hospital. Avila's
mentor, Canady, does not believe his student will have trouble fulfilling
"Eduardo is a great example of a medical student who is
interested in combining clinical care and research," Canady said. "He is intelligent
and inquisitive and very deserving of his fellowship award. I look for him
to contribute much to both the care of his future patients and the science