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Research by GME Trainee Published in Science Advances

Research by GME Trainee RJ Williams Published in Science Advances

Dr. RJ Williams, an Internal Medicine (DOIM) resident participating in the StARR program at the University of Utah, has achieved a significant milestone in his career by publishing his paper in Science Advances. Working closely with investigators at the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Bangkok, Thailand; the Ministry of Public Health in Nonthaburi, Thailand; the University of Cambridge, the University of Rhode Island, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and the University of Florida, Williams' research project focuses on developing a clinical prediction model for dengue virus test positivity among patients presenting with fever at a hospital in Thailand. 

RJ Williams, MD

Historically, clinical prediction models are based solely on clinical and demographic information from the individual patient. The project marks a significant scientific advance by leveraging different epidemiologic data sources to enhance individual-level clinical prediction. In settings where diagnostic testing is too costly or limited in availability, a clinical prediction tool may help with disease management. Dengue is a mosquito-borne illness characterized by fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, and rash. Its severity ranges from mild illness to severe dengue, characterized by severe bleeding, shock, multi-organ failure, and potentially death, particularly among children. The World Health Organization estimates that around 100-400 million infections occur annually, with approximately half of the world's population at risk. Moreover, due to climate change and urbanization, the range of the principal vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is expected to expand by around 10-30% in the coming decades. The virus poses a significant public health challenge due to its potential for outbreaks, which can overwhelm healthcare systems and lead to economic burdens.

By integrating population-level data, Williams and his team, which also include Dr. Daniel Leung in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Dr. Ben Brintz in the Division of Epidemiology, have developed an improved predictive model, offering a potential tool to improve the management of those presenting with suspected dengue virus infection.

"A unique angle for this piece would be that Dr. Williams is participating in an NIH-funded research training program," said Dr. Molly Conroy, Director of the StARR Program, Professor, and Division Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine. "It has allowed him to pursue this impressive research early in his career."

RJ Williams will pursue a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina next year.

About the University of Utah's StARR Program

The Utah Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (Utah StARR) is designed to prepare outstanding residents for a career in academic medicine and clinical investigation by providing them with opportunities to learn and practice clinical, transitional, health service, and community-engaged research skills during their residency training. StARR is an NIH-funded R-38, allowing protected research time during residency.