SHREVEPORT, La. (KMSS) – A summer research program wraps up at LSU Health that’s preparing the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals.

Meet this week’s Standout Students:

Students from colleges and high schools across Louisiana have spent the summer working in labs of LSU Health doctors to get hands-on experience.

“They get to critically analyze science and that’s very important for their career. So this year despite COVID, we have good representation from all over Louisiana,” said Dr. Karen Stokes, professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology LSU Health.

Dr. Stokes said it’s called the CURIOUS program that’s funded by the National Institute of Health to bring diversity to health care. Including racial minorities and financially disadvantaged students. This group focused on Cardiovascular research.

“Neurogranin was once thought to be a protein specific to the brain. However our lab has found neurogranin is expressed in the Endothelial of human arteries as well. We know that neurogranin is really important in signaling in the brain, specifically this Calcium Calmodulin pathway. But the more we can understand about neurogranin, the better we can target it in the future and really fight against cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis or hypertension. It’s exciting stuff and I’m really happy to be apart of it,” Jonathan Okerke said.

Okerke is a Centenary College Junior who grew up in Shreveport. He’s working to become a doctor and stay in Shreveport to provide care for the community.

“The whole reason I did this program is so in the future when I’m hopefully a doctor I can see more people who look like me, with the same skin color or came from the same family background,” Okerke said.

The cardiovascular research also relates to neurological diseases.

“I wanted to look at the vascular contributions so smoking, diabetes, chronic hypertension and its role and Dementia subjects and Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease and how it affects their thinking or processing information. The more abnormalities that these people had in their white matter of their brain the slower their processing speed would be,” Brianne Callicoatte said.

Callicoatte is also a Junior Medical student studying at Centenary College.

“When I was little I wanted to do microbiology but now I’m more interested in helping people and and particularly being a physician scientist,” Callicoatte said.

The students are taking what they’ve learned over the summer at LSU Health to advance their knowledge and prepare for their careers.

“They are far more confident in talking about science. But also really learned a lot at the bench, how to work as a team, and present their data in a much different way than they would have done previously,” Dr. Stokes said.

They share advice for other kids in Shreveport who may want to grow up and be doctors too.

“Keep working hard. It’s difficult stuff but you can do it,” Okerke said.

“No matter how hard or challenging it gets through school just stick with it if your passionate about it,” Callicoatte said.

If you have a student you would like to nominate click here.