WV Press Association
LEWISBURG, W.Va. — With the completion of final exams in mid-December, students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) are ready for the holiday break, most returning home for the holidays.
For Alexandra Crawford, a WVSOM Class of 2026 student, it means returning home to Virginia to spend time with her husband and see her family in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area. Her husband, Imad Haque, is a fourth-year medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Her parents, Kristy and Richard Colli, live in Virginia Beach, and her father, James Crawford, lives in North Carolina.
The Christmas break from class is a holiday treat, but for Crawford, who spent most of her summer at WVSOM in Lewisburg working on a research project, it’s extra special: Time to tell family and friends about the benefits of her summer work.
Crawford won national and state recognition this fall for her student poster project. She earned a second Place at the national Osteopathic Medical Education (OMED) Conference in Orlando, Fla., in October and then first place at the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association (WVOMA) conference at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., in November.
The OMED award came with a $250 cash prize, and Crawford has a plan for the money.
“My mom recently finished chemotherapy, and I plan to take her out to eat with the money,” she said.
The poster project — “Ovariectomy Exacerbates Lung Allergic Responses, but Not Vascular Endothelial Function in a Mouse Model of Asthma” — documented the ongoing research of Shinichi Asano, Ph.D., an associate professor in WVSOM’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.
It was the opportunity to work with Asano that kept Crawford at WVSOM last summer.
“I stayed the whole summer because I know research is so valuable to the learning process and your residency applications in the future,” Crawford said. “I was appreciative to be offered the opportunity.”
Asano’s research studies how sex disparities affect the development of asthma-related vascular inflammation. Using animal models, Asano’s laboratory is working to explain why female adults with asthma are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Asano said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, preclinical research was difficult to conduct, so his lab focused on analyzing clinical data related to sex disparities in COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease. During that time, he saw that young boys are more asthma-prone than young girls, but after puberty, the sex differences reverse. In fact, adult females develop more severe asthma compared with adult males, and these females are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
For a student who wants to gain research experience, Crawford said Asano’s effort is “the perfect project and dynamic.”
“The work he does in his lab is ongoing. He invited students to collaborate, to help with data analysis and experimental procedures, and to present the information they learn,” she said.
Crawford’s job was detailing research, creating graphics and presenting the work for the poster contest.
That summer commitment was necessary, she said, because judges at OMED asked questions about the work and evaluated the medical students on how well they responded. The WVOMA competition was based on the poster information, not answering interview questions.
There were other benefits to spending the summer in West Virginia. Staying at WVSOM allowed Crawford to experience the region. She said several generations of her family have attended Concord University in Athens, W.Va., and the family has an Appalachian heritage.
“I really like it here,” Crawford said of WVSOM. “It has been above and beyond my expectations. It’s a good atmosphere.”