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Medical Student Research Accepted for Presentation

Akash Khurana

Fourth-year medical student Akash Khurana’s research has been accepted for a poster presentation at the American College of Gastroenterology National Conference in October. His project, “Follow-up Outcomes in Celiac Disease Patients Followed at a Large, Community-Based Gastroenterology Practice” assessed whether patients who were referred to a dietitian had significant differences in follow-up outcomes based on symptoms and serology as compared to patients who were not referred to a dietitian.

Preliminary results from this study indicated that rates of dietitian referrals at Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) are higher than referrals to dietitians at larger academic centers. Additionally, in the group of patients who had a documented dietitian referral, patients reported less symptoms at follow-up. Though not statistically significant, there was a correlation between dietitian referrals and close follow-up rates. Although this may not change current guidelines, the results of this study further emphasizes the necessity of frequent follow up with celiac disease (CD) patients and monitoring their illness to avoid complications and reduce their symptom burden.

Khurana is a James Scholar student who has come to understand that research is at the core of all that students learn during their years in medical school. Studying and grasping topics in gastroenterology came naturally for Khurana as a preclinical student, which motivated him to pursue a research study in this field.

“Working with Dr. Thukral, one of the practicing gastroenterologists at RGA and an associate professor at UICOM-R, has been a great experience…. My work on celiac disease will help me to better understand the hardships my future patients face and how I can better manage their care to improve their quality of life,” said Khurana.

Additional authors on the research include: Chandrashekhar Thukral, MD, PhD, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and Medical Specialties who practices at Rockford Gastroenterology Associates, and Daniel Leffler, MD, from The Celiac Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Kayéromi Gomez, PhD, Biostatistician and Interim Director of the Office of Research performed data analysis for this study.
CD is a chronic gastrointestinal illness that affects approximately 1 percent of patients in the United States. It is triggered by consuming foods containing gluten. The human immune response creates antibodies causing an inflammatory reaction, which leads to villous atrophy in the small intestine and a wide variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, greasy stools, bloating, flatulence and abdominal cramping. CD can be a very challenging illness to combat because the most effective treatment is complete avoidance of gluten-containing foods.