Fascinating Research

Some people would find this research tedious.

Honestly, it’s not some people, it’s most people.

But Sarah Gainer, a second-year veterinary student at Iowa State University, is not most people. As an undergraduate she worked on a statistics heavy research project that looked at the tick life stages and disease seasonality to see if there was a correlation.

“I found it fascinating trying to find a statistically significant link,” Gainer said.

But there was a problem. The research project occurred during the height of COVID and Gainer had to work remotely.

“I wanted my next project to be more hands-on with people and animals to see if veterinary research was something I would like to pursue,” she said.

Just the opportunity came Gainer’s way this summer. Gainer was part of the CVM Summer Scholar Research Program that introduces veterinary medicine students to research in a wide array of areas. The students choose to investigate specific issues that match their interest and the work of a faculty member.

Gainer worked with Dr. Bonnie Hay Kraus, associate professor of veterinary clinical studies, evaluating renal biomarkers as predictors of patients who go into acute kidney injury (AKI) post-anesthesia and its association with intra-operative hypotension.

Gainer’s study subjects were dogs and cats that were also part of CVM’s summer surgery program. In the research study, Gainer collected blood and urine samples pre-operatively and post-operatively to assess if there was an elevation in any of the biomarkers.

“Our hypothesis is that one or more of the biomarkers would elevate in a patient that sustained hypotension,” Gainer said. “The purpose of understanding the association of elevated biomarkers as predictors of AKI would be to identify AKI early and therefore be able to intervene with therapies early on.”

The research study required Gainer to spend not only time in surgery collecting samples but other days analyzing the samples. It was quite the change from her previous research experience.

“When patients were in surgery, I would walk around and help trouble shoot blood pressure documentation to ensure I was getting the appropriate data,” Gainer said. “After the patient recovered, I would document surgery times, extubating time, and patient blood pressure readings.

“This part of the summer was very hands-on with patients and working with clinicians, something I really enjoyed,” she continued. “I really enjoyed being able to take on more leadership with collecting samples and organizing data. It taught me a lot about what did or didn’t work and gave me a sense of purpose being involved with this study.”

It also maybe gave Gainer a glimpse into her future.

“This program has shown me that I do enjoy clinical research and that this is a component I would like to have in my future career,” she said.

August 2022