|January 7, 2000||Volume 7, Number 8|
Grad student researches new MRI use checking ovarian function
By Ann Dumonceaux
At the recent conjoint meeting of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Toronto, University of Saskatchewan graduate student Jennifer Hilton was honored for her work applying magnetic resonance imaging to the examination of bovine ovarian follicles.
"This is a tremendous achievement," states supervisor Dr. Roger Pierson.
Hilton presented two papers at the internationally attended conference.
Her first paper Magnetic Resonance Image Attributes of the Ovarian Follicle at Specific Phases of Development and Regression: II. The Follicle Wall. Fertility and Sterility received one of four Best Research Paper Awards for a Student/Resident, in addition to receiving an abstract score of first in the Imaging in Reproductive Medicine subsection.
An additional paper Magnetic Resonance Image Attributes of the Ovarian Follicle at Specific Phases of Development and Regression: I. The Follicle Antrum was ranked second.
Both papers are currently under submission to the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility.
Written and researched in collaboration with supervisors Dr. Roger Pierson (Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences), Dr. Gord Sarty (Medical Imaging), and Dr. Gregg Adams (Veterinary Anatomy), Hilton credits the success of her project to the efforts of her committee (which also includes Dr. O. Olatumbosun) and the strength found in collaboration.
Pierson agrees that Hilton's multi-disciplinary research "underscores one of the tremendous advantages that we have at this university with the medical school and Western School of Veterinary Medicine on the same campus."
Hilton's interest in the applications of MRI to medical research was sparked by a summer project as an undergraduate physiology student in 1997.
"My project was to look at all the imaging modalities, MRI, ultrasound, CAT, and radiography," says Hilton, " to see which one was the best for looking at the different types of ovarian cancers."
An additional project, in which she did preliminary work with the same bovine MRI model on which she later based her thesis, shortly followed.
Subsequent to those projects, and receiving the L.B. Jaques Award for the most distinguished graduate in physiology, Hilton applied to both graduate school and the College of Medicine.
Following her acceptance into the Doctor of Medicine program, Hilton elected to defer her entrance into medical school until the completion of her master's degree in science.
Though she describes her master's work as "still at the research level," the 23-year-old Hilton foresees a prominent place in the future for MRI.
"As MRI becomes more available and cheaper to use, it may be used more often to diagnose ovarian function because we can potentially see quite a bit more with the higher quality MR images than with ultrasound scans."
Hilton also observes that her work has important medical implications.
"Based on computer-assisted analysis of the MRI images, we can make an interpretation of how healthy that follicle is and whether it will ovulate," explains Hilton. This information is useful for researchers of human infertility and contraception.
Now a first-year medical student, Hilton sees a possible PhD in her future, but her immediate goal is to become a researching physician.
"I really enjoyed the research experience with my master's degree," admits Hilton.
"I would like to continue because it's exciting to be able to see the application of bench work to a clinical setting."
Though she anticipates relocating to a larger centre in order to complete a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, or radiology, Hilton hopes to eventually return to the city:
"I love it in Saskatoon. I can see myself coming back".
Ann Dumonceaux writes profiles of U of S graduate students as part of a fellowship with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.
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