Extraordinary Teamwork leads TCOM student to new TB discoveries

By Sally Crocker


A collaborative effort between UNTHSC, the CDC and Tarrant County Public Health helped establish more effective information-gathering methods in TB prevention efforts and provided some high-level recognition for fourth-year TCOM student Patrick Crowley.

Crowley has been published in the Texas Journal of Public Health for his work with Dr. Thad Miller, Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems, who leads UNTHSC’s role as one of 10 sites selected nationally for the CDC’s Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC).

UNTHSC has served as a TBESC site since 2001, with a second 10-year funding commitment received for the project in 2011.

Crowley was matched with Dr. Miller through the TCOM summer research fellowship program in 2015 and spent six weeks collecting data on TB at Tarrant County Public Health.

“TB is considered to be a preventable disease, so if someone ends up at the health department with TB, it’s because somewhere along the way, there was a breakdown in the system,” Dr. Miller said. “Prevention efforts work very well, but still people get sick, so the question is, why and what can we do differently?”

Working under Dr. Miller’s guidance and in cooperation with Jeremy Gallups, RN, BSN, Tarrant County Public Health TB Division Manager, and Dr. George Samuel, UNTHSC Assistant Professor of Medicine and Tarrant County Public Health Pulmonary Medicine and Infectious Disease specialist, Crowley’s task as graduate research assistant was to personally interview TB patients to look for risk factors that might have been missed along the way.

Most patients were more than willing to share their records and information, Dr. Miller said, and the resulting presentations on Crowley’s work demonstrated that personal interviews could be an important research tool to aid in TB prevention.

Since then, Crowley has shared his research at UNT Health Science Center’s Research Appreciation Day and was invited to Atlanta to speak at a national CDC meeting.

The CDC Consortium is now exploring this methodology for future TB studies.

“It is very exciting to be able to contribute to the scientific progress toward TB elimination,” Crowley said. “As I talk to other medical students from around the state and across the country, I realize how fortunate UNTHSC students are to have so many great mentors and researchers from diverse fields to work with.”

A key element to making this effort work was the collaboration that began at UNTHSC, extended into the community and has now moved onto a broader scope with the CDC.

“It’s a great win-win and a perfect example of what can be accomplished when we all work together as one team,” Dr. Miller said.

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