Unmuted’s Inaugural Research Symposium 2023

I am a Sharon Mathew, 4th year medical student at Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-KPCOM). As an aspiring OB/GYN, I aim to use my career to advocate for reproductive healthcare freedom through patient-centered care and community leadership. Serving as a committee member for Unmuted-MSFC since 2021 has allowed me to train in advocacy work as a student.

Championing Gynecological Research in a Post-Roe V. Wade Era

Unmuted is a national subdivision of MSFC that focuses on how the intersections of race, gender, and class affect reproductive healthcare. The research symposium was created to showcase medical students’ research on public health or gynecology. The main objective of the symposium was to create a platform where medical students could highlight their research findings and collaborate with students who might be located in states with restrictions on bodily autonomy. The aim was also to encourage further research and its more “complicated” topics by awarding presenters and creating a platform for students to feel secure and empowered regarding these more controversial topics.

Following the overturning of Roe V. Wade, I and members of our community (AFAB/women/GNC people, etc.) were incredibly disheartened. Witnessing how the monumental defeat affected myself and my future OB/GYN colleagues angered me; I strove to find a way to help empower us to continue pursuing gynecology despite the challenges we may face. This chain of events led me to create a research symposium highlighting gynecological and public health research. I wanted to create an opportunity for the gynecological research of medical students to be celebrated and protected. Creating this safe space for students to showcase their abortion research, helps empower them as future physicians to continue pursuing research in the field and to use their voices to support evidence-based medicine and the rights of their patients.

We were very lucky to have several outstanding presentations!

Timing of Pregnancy Confirmation- 1st place winner; Martinique Ogle

This research surveyed patients at a free-standing abortion clinic in Philadelphia about the gestational age (GA) when they suspected being pregnant vs the GA at which their pregnancy was confirmed. The research concluded that the average GA of pregnancy suspicion was ~4.95 weeks, and most patients (~66.7%) were accurate about their approximate gestational age. This data indicates that patients are able to determine when they are pregnant with relative accuracy, although this is not a perfect method and does not apply to every patient. Even patients can determine that they are pregnant, cannot do so until about 5 weeks GA. This is significant as several restrictions across the nation have been lowered to 6 weeks GA (more colloquially called “heartbeat bills”). It is clear to see how these restrictions directly clash with the timing and lived reality of patients who may not be able to seek medical care before the 6 week mark due to numerous outside factors such as ability to take time off work, child care, transportation, familial support etc. As clinicians, we must use evidence-based research such as this to highlight how these restrictions make it impossible for patients to seek the healthcare they need.


The Effects of Recent Women’s Reproductive Health Legislation Changes on Access to Isotretinoin- Faige Jeidel

This research focuses on how restrictive abortion bans affect AFAB/women who take teratogenic medications such as Accutane. Isotretinoin, more commonly known as Accutane, itself has many regulations and monitoring protocols required for AFAB patients who are of child-bearing age. The aim of this research was to assess how the overturning of Roe V. Wade impacted the use of this medication for both patients and physicians. What was found was that physicians have become increasingly more reluctant to prescribe these medications to their AFAB patients due to abortion restrictions and any potential complications that can arise. The significance of this research lies in the fact that abortion restrictions do not only impact the reproductive healthcare of the affected patients. These restrictions impact the patient’s health across every organ system and advocacy on the part of the physician is required in order to protect the patient’s best interest and autonomy.

Medical Students’ Perspectives on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization- Uma Reddy

This research aimed to delineate the shift in perspective of medical students in regards to the overturning of Roe V. Wade. Medical students were surveyed on their geographical region and specialty of choice and how that may have changed due to the overturning. Following the Dobb’s decision, there was a reported 6% decrease in students who reported their specialty to be “Undecided, related to reproductive healthcare.” The impact of this decision not only affects patients seeking care, but also affects the student physicians as they train.

Although not from this paper, research has shown that young doctors are also much less likely to settle in states with restrictive abortion bans, regardless of their specialty. As the crisis of the physician shortage continues to grow, more people will find themselves living in areas without sufficient access to not only gynecological care, but care across other specialties as well.

Empowering Future Advocates

Medical students are enthusiastic leaders who unfortunately cannot stand on their own yet due to the dynamics of being a medical student. Although they are incredibly well informed, the fear of lack of support or retribution from our organizational institutions hinders us from pursuing advocacy despite our desire to do so. In creating events/organizations surrounding abortion care/education, we are able to empower future physicians as students who will feel supported in fighting for evidence-based medicine and for what they believe is right.

As medical students, we are often unintentionally ignored/undermined in clinical settings due to our role. Despite our constant hard work, it is very rare that we are congratulated or highlighted for our accolades. Creating events such as this, where students can showcase their research, be awarded nationally, and collaborate with students/researchers across the nation has proven to be an effective way in garnering engagement and promoting further advancement in these more controversial areas.

One of the aspects that I think the MSFC community should pay more attention to is the call for more research. With every research project’s conclusion, there was a resounding call for further research in these fields. As evidence-based practicing physicians, we should be answering the call for reproductive freedom through investigative research methods. The only way to combat the ambiguity of these complex matters is through neutral data collection/investigation and our dedication to our patient’s rights.