Meet the BIGGER Participants


Antonina Flair​“I know I still have much to learn, but the progress and knowledge gained in these short months has given me perspective and fueled my engines forward. This would not be possible without the consistent support and encouragement of my mentors along the way."

- Antonina Flair, 2019 BIGGER participant

Six participants have been chosen for the 3rd year of Duke Bridging the Gap to Enhance Clinical Research (BIGGER) program. Participants will use this unique opportunity to spend six months training with Duke Faculty mentors and research teams, allowing them to explore clinical research career possibilities during their gap year following the completion of a baccalaureate degree and applying to graduate school. The program is particularly focused on creating opportunities for individuals from NIH designated underrepresented populations.

Between now and December, they will get to train with Duke faculty in varied medical divisions to develop a research project in a clinical area (cardiovascular, pediatrics, physical therapy, etc.),  complete curricula in research methodology responsible conduct of research, and professional development, and participate in observational clinical rotations.

The program, funded by the NIH, is under the leadership of Duke Clinical Research Institute faculty Vivian Chu, MD and Kevin Thomas, MD.

Breyah Atkinson
2018 graduate of East Carolina University, Greenville NC
Faculty Mentor: Lance Okeke, MD

Melanie Bakovic
2019 graduate of Duke University, Durham NC
Faculty Mentor: Kristin Newby, MD 
Faculty Mentor: Erich Huang, MD

Antonina Flair
Meredith College Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Program, Raleigh NC
2010 graduate of Knox College, Galesburg IL
Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Li, MD
Faculty Mentor: Christoph Hornik, MD

Morgan Lane
2018 graduate of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC
Faculty Mentor: Danny Benjamin, MD
Faculty Mentor: Kanecia Zimmerman, MD

Chiagoziem Ogbonna
2019 graduate of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC
Faculty Mentor: Andrew Landstrom, MD

Maria Parra
2019 graduate of North Carolina Central University, Durham NC
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Thomas, MD 
Faculty Mentor: Larry Jackson, MD


BIGGER 2018 Cohort

Liz Ciociola
Senior Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Li, MD
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Christoph Hornik, MD
Project: "Association between preoperative respiratory support and postoperative complications in patients undergoing pediatric cardiac surgery"

Razan Fayyad
Senior Faculty Mentor: Janet Prvu Bettger, ScD, FAHA
Project: "Uptake of a smartphone app for self-assessment of functional capacity as the sixth vital sign a RE-AIM evaluation"

Ciara Green
Senior Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Johnson, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Rasheeda Hall, MD
Project: "Hypothesized negative correlation between self-reported recovery time and physical activity levels in older hemodialysis patients"

Tomi Ladipo
Senior Faculty Mentor: Brian Smith, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Kevin Hill, MD
Project: "Epidemiology of Bacterial Meningitis in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit"

LaPrince-Miller Smith
Senior Faculty Mentor: Danny Benjamin, MD
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Kanecia Zimmerman, MD
Project: "Comparing the Safety of Morphine and Fentanyl in a Retrospective Study on Preterm Neonates"


BIGGER 2017 Cohort

Kiera Benson
Senior Faculty Mentor: Danny Benjamin, MD
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Kanecia Zimmerman, MD
Project: "Antibiotics Use for the Treatment of Early-Onset Neonatal Sepsis" 
Synopsis: This project focused on characterizing the trends in antibiotic use for the treatment of early-onset neonatal sepsis. We also compared the predictors for suspected early-onset neonatal sepsis to those for culture-proven early-onset

Cecil Daniel
Senior Faculty Mentor: Brian Smith, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Kevin Hill, MD
Project: "Patterns of Phlebotomy Blood Loss and Transfusions in the Extremely Low Birth Weight Infants"
Synopsis: Extremely Low Birth Weight (ELBW) Infants are the most highly transfused patient population during their first few weeks of life. Excessive phlebotomy in both number and blood volume is one of the biggest contributors to the high transfusion rates. In this retrospective study, we investigate the frequency of phlebotomy testing and the necessity of blood transfusion requirements in ELBW infants.

Reid McCabe
Senior Faculty Mentor: Kristin Newby, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Erich Huang, MD
Project: "Reducing Disparities to Ensure Health Equity in Project Baseline: A Longitudinal Cohort Study"
Synposis: There are unique challenges to maintaining diversity and reducing disparities across each level of recruiting, enrolling, and monitoring participants in a large, technologically-advanced study to map human health. My role in correcting and preventing these disparities was by (1) analyzing recruitment and enrollment statistics to identify imbalances in race and ethnicity, disease risk level, age, and gender, (2) reporting findings to community engagement and project management personnel, and (3) brainstorming strategies to correct the imbalances.

Luz Plumey
Senior Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Johnson, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Rasheeda Hall, MD
Project: Ethnic Differences in hospital days among older adults receiving dialysis.
Synopsis: Dialysis is associate with limited life expectancy in older adults. To performance this study we used RENDER website provided by the United States Renal Data System. This study was conducted to examine ethnic differences in hospital days among older adults receiving dialysis.

Miracle Thomas
Senior Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Li, MD 
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Christoph Hornik, MD
Project: "Patterns of Lab Evaluations in Neonates Undergoing Cardiac Surgery"
Synopsis: Postoperative cardiac intensive care relies heavily on high-precision, laboratory blood testing to collect the most up-to-date information in an effort to maximize patient outcomes, but can also result in the excessive collection of patient blood samples, particularly in neonates. My role in addressing this issue has been analyzing patient records in an effort to develop an algorithm that can reduce complications and improve outcomes in neonates recovering from cardiac surgery on cardiopulmonary bypass.

Jimica Wilson
Senior Faculty Mentor: Kevin Thomas, MD
Jr. Faculty Mentor: Larry Jackson, MD
Project: "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Prevalence, Management, and Outcomes of Patients with Severe Aortic Stenosis: A Narrative Review" 
Synopsis: My research complies and characterizes the differences in prevalence/incidence, management, and outcomes of severe Aortic Stenosis (AS) by race and ethnicity.