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      James Scholar student tackles celiac disease research at RGA

      James Scholar Student

      Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) is once again participating in the James Scholar Program, which connects a University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford student with a digestive health-related research project.

      Akash Khurana is a third-year medical student and has partnered with RGA’s Dr. Bob Thukral as his mentor to study patients with celiac disease. His research will focus on clinical outcomes of patients with celiac disease in a large community-based practice and compare them to similar outcomes from large academic centers. The study will consider many data points, including insurance coverage, follow-ups, nutrition/diet information and biopsies.

      The James Scholar Program is competitive and research projects involve a complex vetting process before they’re approved. Once the project is finished, it will be displayed during a research day at the college and judged, and considered for possible publication in a medical journal.

      Dr. Thukral, himself a James Scholar alumnus, has mentored past participants. One past project involved the low-residue diet for colonoscopy prep study, for which the student won first prize. The details of the study were also published in a medical journal.

      Khurana is excited for the opportunity and to learn more about the gastrointestinal (GI) field. His father is a gastroenterologist and he said GI is a perfect blend of patient care and procedural work.

      "Dr. Thukral was 100 percent in from my first email, and I really enjoy working with him," Khurana said. "When I first decided to be a doctor, I knew I’d always want to be involved with patient care. I love talking to people and learning about their experiences. GI is a good blend between long-term follow-up and procedural medicine. RGA is full of great teachers and experts in GI treatment."

      All of RGA’s physicians are on the faculty at the medical college. Dr. Thukral said the James Scholar Program challenges students to do meaningful research, which is another way to prepare them for working in the medical field.