Learning from MastersBrittany Rauch
Hudak is one of thousands of students who learn world-class research techniques on the frontlines of Colorado’s academic research world — in the lab.
At Colorado State University, for instance, the Center for Undergraduate Research offers more than 20 programs directed at undergraduate research.
The number of undergraduate researchers in formal programs at CSU has grown from fewer than 1,300 in 2008-2009 to more than 4,250 in 2011-12. Last fall the university had about 818 graduate research assistants and graduate fellows working in its labs in paid positions.
Similar scenarios play out at Colorado’s other research universities.
“The great thing about students is they’re enthusiastic,” said Eric Cornell, a Nobel-Prize-winning researcher at JILA, NIST, and the department of physics at CU-Boulder. “They don’t know what’s impossible yet, which means they are willing to try anything.
“Time and again it is the students who come up with the really good ideas that make it work and I’m just sort of around to make sure it all fits together.”
JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has approximately 150 students working in the lab on a regular basis.
Students’ participation in research has a huge impact on the classroom, schools and the public.
Hudak began medical school at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, in 2010.
Dr. Ethan Cumbler, an associate professor, had already begun work on reducing stroke treatment time at UCH and found Hudak a perfect fit for the multidisciplinary team that aimed to improve the time it took to administer a clot buster medication, tissue plasminogen activator. The stroke work was part of a Quality Improvement project at the University of Colorado Hospital, on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
“When I came out here I knew I wanted to get more patients this medicine, and I didn’t really know how I could do that as a student, but that was my mission coming into school,” Hudak said.
The sooner tPA is administered to the patient, the fewer disabling effects from the stroke. The team sought to reduce the time it took to administer the medication to under an hour; the hospital’s average at the time was about 77 minutes, Hudak said. The American Stroke Association recognizes hospitals that have a low treatment time as part of a Target Stroke Honor Roll.
Hudak interviewed other hospitals that were on the honor roll to identify their processes and compare the results to UCH’s current practices.
“Our goal was to create a standard protocol that would happen every time and everyone would recognize this protocol,” she said.
Hudak’s real-world research allowed her to respond immediately to feedback from hospital personnel and to implement new strategies that accommodated the staff’s concerns. Once the team gained participation from every person involved in caring for the stroke patient, the response time for administering the medication improved from 77 minutes to approximately 43 minutes.
Hudak has gone on to present the team’s findings nationally, including at the International Stroke Conference. The University of Colorado In-Hospital Stroke Quality Improvement Team also received an Award for Excellence in teamwork from the Society of Hospital Medicine.
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