TCOM student awarded 2022 Grass Foundation Young Investigator Award

Dani EstebanDani Esteban has a love of children, pediatrics and neurology. Through her dedicated research with Cook Children’s Medical Center, she was awarded the 2022 Grass Foundation Young Investigator Award. Esteban, a fourth-year student at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, received the award on behalf of the American Epilepsy Society and Scientific Program Committee.  

Esteban was one of only eight to receive a Grass Foundation award, selected from more than 1,300 submissions from around the world. Her abstract, “The Impact of Presurgical Diagnostic Testing on Surgical Decision Making in Pediatric MRI-negative Drug-Resistant Epilepsy,” will be presented at this year’s American Epilepsy Society annual meetings in Nashville in December.  

“My initial reaction was shock,” Esteban said. “I wasn’t expecting to receive an award, so it was a pleasant surprise.” 

Esteban had previous experience working as a behavioral therapist with autistic children and found the challenges in working with their unique needs motivating. During her third year at TCOM, Esteban completed an elective rotation at Texas Child Neurology and found her passion.  

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I really enjoy the variety in patients and the time, trust and teamwork required for each child’s care and management.” 

Earlier this year, Esteban started working with Dr. Scott Perry, the head of neurosciences and director of the Genetic Epilepsy Clinic at Cook Children’s Medical Center, to advance her interest in child neurology.  

“Dani approached me earlier this year for research opportunities related to her interest in child neurology,” Perry said. “Dani’s project involved examining the methods of pre-surgical evaluation for kids with drug-resistant epilepsy who had normal MRIs. These can be some of the most difficult cases since the MRI does not demonstrate a clear lesion that causes epilepsy and could be removed. As a result, different centers do lots of different tests to decide whether a kid with normal MRI is a good surgical candidate and what type of surgery to do.” 

Esteban began working with Perry on the research in April and submitted the abstract in June. She also plans to submit her work on this research for publication in a journal specific to the field. The award recognizes and honors eight outstanding young investigators conducting research in basic or clinical neuroscience related to epilepsy.  

“It is very impressive for Dani to be recognized with this award,” Perry said. “Only eight Grass Foundation awards are given away, and this meeting has thousands of attendees. To win this award as a student is even more impressive. Dani is to be congratulated on her work to conceive the study, design the basic methods and analyze the data.” 

Esteban will present her poster at the AES annual conference December 2-6 and plans to apply to a child neurology residency program.  

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