Ishna Sharma named TCOM’s 2023 Researcher of the Year

Ishna SharmaDriven by a passion for research, the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine has named fourth-year student Ishna Sharma its 2023 Research of the Year. After a rigorous selection process, Sharma was selected as the winner and will represent TCOM in the American College of Osteopathic Medical Schools Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents National Conference.  

“It was a pleasant surprise to have been nominated and selected as Researcher of the Year,” Sharma S. “I am thrilled to represent TCOM in the National AACOM COSGP Conference, where I hope to showcase how TCOM and the osteopathic profession support its students in research.” 

Sharma has compiled a prolific resume of research throughout her career. She has made 11 presentations across the country, presented seven different posters and has 11 different peer-reviewed publications. She was part of TCOM’s Pediatric Research Program in the summer of 2020 and prepared a presentation on Burkitt’s lymphoma on a study that was already published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

Since 2021, Sharma has been doing research with advisors Dr. Anish Ray and Dr. Ashraf Mohamed in pediatric oncology at Cook Children’s Medical Center. Her research passion can be traced back to her undergraduate days at the University of Texas at Austin.  

“I started researching as an undergraduate student and the passion grew as I was given more and more opportunities to investigate a research problem from start to finish,” Sharma said. “Since then, I have been fortunate to engage in multiple projects, including the successful development of diagnostic tests that utilize nanoparticles, reviewing oncological drivers, determining future treatment directions in gynecological cancers and identifying risk factors that impact prognosis in pediatric cancer patients diagnosed with COVID-19.” 

While at TCOM, she has also worked in the laboratory of Dr. Riyaz Basha in the Department of Pediatrics and Women’s Health. There, she reviewed current molecular targeted therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma, with an emphasis on mechanisms, efficacies and limitations. Sharma also investigated areas of future promise as well as challenges present in chemo-sensitization research for gynecological cancers. Her contributions were included in a textbook on gynecological cancers.  

Sharma also has put in plenty of work outside of the laboratory while at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. She has been a volunteer for the Refugee Health Initiative since 2019, helping local refugee groups and providing health care screening to that population. She was also the president of the Medical Technologies and Innovations Group and co-president of the Oncology Student Interest Group.  

“One thing that put Ishna apart from many of the other essays was the very down-to-earth writing in her essay,” said TCOM second-year student Matthew Joseph, who facilitated the selection process. “It is blinded to each reviewer, and each one noted the genuine interest in the field of research she held, along with how her values so closely aligned with the philosophy of osteopathy. She used her experience in various fields to benefit the people she served, such as refugee populations.” 

In 2022, Sharma was honored with the TCOM Legends Scholarship, the HSC Research Conference Award, the HSC Individual Research Award, the HSC Research Poster Award, the HSC Pediatrics, and Women’s Health Award and HSC Research Appreciation Day Interprofessional Abstract Award. 

A national committee elected from all the osteopathic schools around the country will make the selection of the National Student Researcher of the Year.  

“TCOM students are very fortunate to have great mentors and project flexibility,” Sharma said. “I would highly encourage students to take advantage of such a supportive culture and their passions.”  

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