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Student Research Spotlight 
Shane Swink (DO '18)

February 19, 2018

Shane SwinkShane Swink (DO ’18) entered medical school with the goal of pursuing a specialty that valued a commitment to research. During his time at PCOM, he has been involved in numerous research projects focusing on issues such as hair loss, preadolescent acne and the effectiveness of telemedicine. Mr. Swink recently learned he matched to his first choice, a dermatology residency at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

What did you study?

Most of my research projects throughout medical school have largely focused on several areas in the field of dermatology. My three most recently published projects looked at using biotin supplements for hair loss, the effects of acne treatments on the bacteria associated in preadolescent acne, and using telemedicine technology to help diagnose and treat rare diseases, specifically ichthyosis (a group of conditions in which there are excess skin cells resulting in the appearance of scales).

What prompted you to pursue research?

I came into medical school with the goal of pursuing a competitive specialty that heavily values a commitment to research in its residency applicants. Because of this goal I made it a priority of mine to get involved in as many meaningful research projects as I could.

What experience do you have with conducting research?

With my goals in mind, I reached out to possible research mentors in the Philadelphia area and was fortunate enough to connect with a pediatric dermatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Leslie Castelo-Soccio, MD, PhD, and worked doing a summer of research with her after my first year of medical school. From that experience, I’ve been able to connect with other dermatologists and obtain several other research opportunities to help me explore my interests in research and dermatology.

What were your responsibilities in your research project?

My roles in these projects have been quite varied. For the biotin project, I was tasked to perform literature reviews and organize the information meaningfully for interpretation by another medical student. For the acne project, I recruited pediatric patients to the study and obtained the appropriate samples for analysis. The telemedicine project allowed me to interpret results from survey data collection and I created a poster that was recently presented at the 13th World Congress of Pediatric Dermatology.

What is the broader impact of your research?

The individual impacts of these projects are varied. There is insufficient evidence to show that biotin supplementation has a meaningful effect in reducing hair loss, and therefore cannot yet be a standard of care for treating the condition, but also cannot be completely disregarded. In regard to the acne project, we were able to begin to characterize the effects of treatment on the bacteria in preadolescent acne, helping to refine the disease process and evaluate effects, efficacy, and consequences of that treatment. The telemedicine project showed that by providing a service for providers to get support for treatment and diagnosis of rare diseases, patients’ lives can be improved by getting them access to care they may not otherwise be able to have for a variety of reasons. Overall, I’ve been involved in a variety of research projects that have broader impacts the field of dermatology leading to better patient care and outcomes.

Where was your research conducted?

The research project looking at biotin supplementation was done exclusively at CHOP. The project looking at bacteria in acne was conducted at CHOP with collaboration at the University of Pennsylvania. The telemedicine project was conducted remotely in conjunction with several other institutions including the Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types (FIRST), Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Mayo Clinic Rochester, Yale School of Medicine, University of Miami School of Medicine, and Park Nicollet Health Partners. 

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