Student Feature: Rachel Brooks
CHS Student-Scientist Contributes Original Research
On Saturday, March 7, CHS junior Rachel Brooks was an oral presenter at the 58th annual Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) at the UConn Health center in Farmington. In December, over 80 high school students submitted videos of their projects to the JSHS, and she was one of 15 chosen to be an oral presenter. She had just 12 minutes to present her research to an audience of judges, medical professionals, researchers, students, teachers, and parents.
She won first place in the oral competition, receiving scholarships, cash awards, and a paid trip to the national symposium in April.
Here's Rachel’s explanation of her research and its importance in the medical world:
My project was a case-control study on hospitalized patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, also known as EDS. EDS is a rare group of connective tissue disorders that affect the skin, joints, and blood vessels. It’s caused by genetic mutations in a protein known as collagen, and people with this disorder typically present with extremely flexible joints, elastic skin, and abnormal scarring or bruising. Some forms of EDS can even cause fatal organ rupture.
In my study, I sought to determine if EDS patients are more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms, cardiovascular complications, and food allergies compared to the general population. I also investigated hospital outcomes of EDS patients, which had yet to be explored.
Using SAS statistical analysis software programming and an online hospital database, I ran statistical models to compute odds-ratios. I found EDS patients were significantly more likely to have digestive, cardiovascular, and immunologic conditions compared to matched controls. I also found EDS patients were 76% more likely to have a longer than average length of hospital stay.
My novel findings will enable physicians to exercise awareness and take proper precautions when treating EDS patients. They also provide rationale for connective tissue abnormalities to be considered in patients presenting with unexplained GI, cardiovascular, or immunologic conditions.
It was an honor being recognized this past weekend and having all my effort come to fruition, especially since I began initial research in July 2019.
I didn’t go into my research thinking of it as an obligation, but an opportunity to make an impact. This past weekend I was able to do just that, sharing my findings and spreading awareness for rare disease.