M2 nets research award from American Physiological Society
An image of Brenda Bortis and one of her research posters
M2 Brenda Bortis is set to be recognized during a special dinner hosted in April by the American Physiological Society.

A second year OUWB medical student has been named recipient of an American Physiological Society’s 2024 Teaching of Physiology Section Research Recognition Award.

Brenda Bortis is set to be recognized during a special dinner hosted in April by the American Physiological Society.

The award is for outstanding research by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and/or early career instructors who present a first-author abstract at the American Physiology Summit. Applications are reviewed by American Physiology Society (APS) section award committees.

Her award-winning project centers on the concept of backward design, which is essentially starting with key learning objectives, forming quiz or test questions based on those objectives, and then creating course content.  It’s an innovative approach which has been used minimally in medical education.

“When I learned I was an award recipient, I was really excited…surprised and shocked, and definitely very grateful,” says Bortis.

Bortis says she pursued the project through OUWB’s Embark program.

Embark is a four-year longitudinal curriculum that consists of structured coursework in research design and implementation, compliance training, research communication, and scholarly presentation, with protected time to develop mentored projects in a wide-range of community and health-related settings.

“Embark is something that makes OUWB really unique,” she says. “It provides opportunities for us to do research like this so easily…Embark is what gave me this opportunity.”

Additionally, Bortis says she has benefited from OUWB’s “great support system.”

Akshata Naik, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, served as mentor on Bortis’ project.

Naik says learning of the recognition Bortis received for her work made her feel “very proud and happy.”

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“As a mentor, I have seen Brenda work hard and participate proactively in this research,” says Naik. “She definitely deserves this award.”

Bortis attended Loyola University for her undergraduate degree and says she wanted to become a doctor after watching family members struggle to navigate the health care system when they needed it most.

Bortis, who says she “made the right decision” to attend OUWB, is on the e-boards of the Pediatric Interest Group and the OUWB chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association. She’s also a member of the oncology and OB-GYN interest groups and serves as a volunteer for the OUWB Student-Run Free Clinic.

Naik says when students like Bortis receive awards from organizations like the American Physiological Society, it is more than an academic achievement.

There is the confidence-building aspect, she says, along with the potential to open doors.

“Brenda will be able to network with other clinicians at the conference and probably make a long-lasting connection,” says Naik.

OUWB also benefits.

“Our students carry forward our school's legacy and are crucial in shaping our reputation,” she says. “If students win awards like these it certainly brings recognition to our school and its faculty.  Also, it boosts our visibility nationally and internationally.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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