September 01, 2021

Kraus awarded the 2021 AOA Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship

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Kraus web sizedThird-year medical student Abigayle Kraus was recently awarded the 2021 AOA Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship. The award will provide her a $5,000 stipend to support her while she conducts her research project titled “Defining the role of endothelin-1 in hyperoxia-induced kidney damage”.

“My mentor Dr. Carmen De Miguel and I were thrilled when we received this award,” Kraus said. “The money received from this fellowship will be used to support equipment needed for my project, the time I spend completing the project, and my traveling to a conference to present our findings.”

“This award is personally important to me because it is the first basic science research award I have received. It has given me more confidence in my skills as a future physician-scientist and propels me to continue to develop my skills in the lab.”

The goal of Kraus’s research study is to define the role of the endothelin system in kidney damage associated with high oxygen exposure. While the project is currently restricted to adult mice, Kraus says she already has ideas for future expansion.

“We have collected samples from animal models at various stages of the neonatal period. Based on the results from this project, we will potentially expand our investigation to research how hyperoxia impacts kidney development throughout the neonatal period. Supplemental oxygen can be a double-edged sword in neonatal care. Although it can provide necessary respiratory support, oxygen excess can increase reactive oxygen species and mitochondrial stress, which causes tissue damage, especially in the lungs and retina of newborns. There has been limited research on how hyperoxia affects neonatal kidneys, so expanding our research could shed light on renal risks of excessive oxygen use in newborns and preterm infants.”

The Birmingham native says she never imagined she would pursue medicine. It wasn’t until Kraus’s senior year of college that it finally clicked.

“I majored in journalism and economics but struggled to find my passion and meaning in the various summer internships I had. When reflecting on my college experience, I realized some of my most meaningful and impactful relationships were formed when I volunteered at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago,” she said. “Interacting with patients and their families and learning about their lives and medical struggles was so humbling. This is the main reason why I pursue medicine. It gives me the opportunity—and the responsibility—to learn about my patients and advocate for their health.”

Now, Kraus says she has really found her place in medicine.

“I thrive in the team environment of medicine. Every day, I learn from every member of the medical care team, and it is so rewarding to see different personalities come together and work to improve the health of our patients.”

Having just started her clinical clerkship rotations, Kraus is navigating her medical interests and what residency/specialty she wants to pursue. Right now, she says she is interested in surgery and OBGYN. 

“I am still early on my career in medicine, so there is a lot of necessary growth in my clinical skills. Specifically, I am working to improve my analysis of a patient’s history and physical exam and to develop my ability to create a differential diagnosis and management plan.”

“My long-term medical goals are still very broad as I have yet to pinpoint the exact specialty I wish to pursue. However, I do know I want to complete a residency at high- volume academic medical center, working towards reaching a professorship at an academic institution.”

Kraus says she couldn’t have received the award if wasn’t for all the people who helped her along the way.

“Dr. Eric Wallace, the telehealth director at UAB, connected me with Dr. Jennifer Pollock’s lab during the summer before medical school. This is where I met Dr. Carmen De Miguel, who is mentoring me during this project. I have learned so much from all three of these individuals, and I would not have received, or even thought of applying for this research if it wasn’t for them.”