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Gu and Yang Receive 2017 Rubenstein Prize

Rubenstein Prize winners Yang Yang, MD (left) and Phillip Gu, MD, flank Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, chair of the 2017 award committee.

Phillip Gu, MD, and Yang Yang, MD, have received the 2017 Paul Rubenstein, MD Prize for Excellence in Resident Research. Each received $3,000 during an abstract and awards presentation May 16 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, chair of the Rubenstein Award Committee and a Rubenstein prize recipient in 2001, introduced the five finalists who presented abstracts. "This is one of my favorite days at Cedars-Sinai," Spiegel said. "It’s a full circle to have participated in this as a resident and to be back to see outstanding science continuing here." Spiegel, a professor of Medicine, directs Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research.

Twenty residents applied for the prize, which was created more than 30 years ago to foster basic and clinical research, enrich knowledge of health science and encourage the development of investigative curiosity in residents. A panel of judges selected the finalists and winners based on their projects' designs, significance to real-world problems and originality.

In his winning study, Gu and his team analyzed various types of bowel-cleansing preparations used by more than 1,600 patients undergoing colonoscopies. They found that mixing the off-the-shelf laxative MiraLAX into the sports drink Gatorade produced the most effective preparation. MiraLAX outperformed GoLYTELY, a commonly prescribed colon cleanser, in the study. Gu and his team were mentored by Spiegel and Christopher Almario, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and a research scientist in the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education.

"This study has major public health implications," Gu said. "Better bowel cleansing may lead to better adenoma (benign tumor) detection rates. And previous studies have clearly demonstrated an association between adenoma detection rates and reduced risk of interval development of colon cancer."

Yang investigated whether abnormal responses of the sinus node — a tissue mass that originates the impulses stimulating the heartbeat — could identify diabetics at increased risk for sudden cardiac death. People with diabetes may be more likely than nondiabetics to have damage to the nerves innervating the sinus node. This situation may make diabetics more vulnerable to certain types of irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac death.

Yang’s study demonstrated that subtle changes in a patient’s heart rate variability and baseline heart rate may be early harbingers of such damage and may serve as predictors of sudden cardiac arrest in this population, Yang said. He and his team were mentored by Sumeet Chugh, MD, professor of Medicine and medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

Finalists Neil Bhamb, MD, Jane Lim, MD, and Vartan Tashjian, MD, also presented their teams’ studies for panel consideration.

The Rubenstein Prize is sponsored by the Burns and Allen Research Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Clinical and Translational Research Center. It honors Paul Rubenstein, MD, for his contributions to Cedars-Sinai during its rise as a nationally recognized medical and research organization. Rubenstein, who retired in 1985, was the first director of the research institute and vice president of professional services.

The award in his honor is one of three granted to Cedars-Sinai trainees each year: the Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research in January and the Clinical Fellows Award for Excellence in Research in May.