United States Air Force Capt. Ryan Earnest, MD (middle), will spend the year working on Air Force-funded research at UC with experts including Alex Lentsch, PhD (left), and Timothy Pritts, MD, PhD (right), as part of his surgical residency program.
Each morning, United States Air Force Capt. Ryan Earnest, MD, commutes from Dayton, Ohio, to UC’s surgical research lab.
It’s not a short drive, but for Earnest, a second-year surgical resident at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, his time at UC allows him to participate in research that could change how he works in the future.
As part of an optional research year in his program, Earnest will spend the next year at UC, working on Air Force-funded research led by Alex Lentsch, PhD, director of UC’s surgical research unit.
They will work on a year-long study focused on the inflammatory response during air evacuation. UC researchers are studying the effect that rapid, high-altitude transport has on critical injuries in order to determine the best time to fly injured soldiers from the battlefield to a safe zone.
Earnest became interested in UC after learning about the work at the Cincinnati Center for Sustainment and Readiness Skills (C-STARS), housed in University Hospital.
“I love the Air Force … I’ve been a part of it for a long time and it’s going to be a big part of my life,” he says. “So this is an opportunity to do things that would impact probably how I’m going to practice medicine after I graduate and when I’m overseas taking care of soldiers.”
C-STARS course director Col. Gina Dorlac, MD, says UC’s relationship with the Air Force allows for these partnerships to take place. This past summer, the department of surgery hosted two Air Force cadets for a short intensive experience in surgical research.
“At the Air Force Academy, there’s no basic science medical research,” she says.
“So the chance to be involved in medical research that speaks to our primary medical mission in the Air Force, that really doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
Lentsch says UC’s surgical residency program, uniquely weighted toward developing academic surgeons, also enables these partnerships.
He says faculty have worked hard “to put all the pieces together so that it’s mutually beneficial for everybody.” The result is an expanded C-STARS program, close ties to the Air Force and opportunities for residents and faculty to work on clinically relevant issues.
It also means Earnest continues his resident education during his stay at UC: “They let me right in—I’m getting quizzed just like everyone else,” he says.
Residency program director Timothy Pritts, MD, PhD, says that’s intentional.
“Even though you take a year out, we want to make sure you come out of this experience as a better surgeon, not only a better researcher,” he says.