WCUCOM students and faculty members participate in research and scholarly activity within a broad research portfolio which includes clinical, community and public health, medical education, biomedical, and, of course, research on the facets of the osteopathic approach to medicine. Numerous clinical preceptors and associated residents involve our rotating students in research experiences as well. Our faculty have ongoing collaborations with nearby University of Southern Mississippi faculty in the areas of biomechanics, nutrition, and public health. Finally, research and Interprofessional collaborations are ongoing with the WCU Schools of Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy, as well as the National Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the WCU Tradition campus.

At WCUCOM, medical students in good academic standing are encouraged to engage in research projects and other types of scholarly activities. Such participation further enriches the academic education of the student, creates potential for collaboration, provides opportunity for presentation and publication, and strengthens the application of the student for obtaining residency positions. Research projects may include any type of biomedical, clinical, population health, or academic research related to the WCUCOM Mission. Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of research projects, some of which are ongoing faculty-driven research studies in which a student may play a specific role in the larger overall project. Moreover, students are also welcome to initiate their own research projects, either as a team of medical students, or individually. In addition to traditional research projects, other scholarly activities could include publishable clinical case studies, particularly by rotating OMS3 and OMS4 students. Our students regularly participate in student poster expositions and competitions at local, regional, and national conferences. Students interested in pursuing a project should contact the Director of Student Research, Dr. Danielle Fastring at (601) 318 - 6492, for direction and support.

OMS1 students are particularly encouraged to seek research opportunities as early as the summer prior to their OMS2 year, as this provides an opportune time to focus on research and scholarly activity. Numerous universities, research foundations, hospitals, and other organizations host summer research programs specifically for medical students. Oftentimes, deadlines for applications occur in late fall; therefore, it is important to identify programs of interest as early as possible.

Students in the OMS3 year are required to write a case report on one of their patients as part of their curricular requirements in the Introduction to Clinical Scholarship course (OMS 7384). A well-written case report may result in a presentation at a professional conference or occasionally even a publication in a scholarly journal for the student. Students in the clinical years are also encouraged to work with their clinical preceptors on research projects of interest to the preceptor. This could involve anything from a secondary analysis of existing data to participation in clinical trials. Both OMS3 and OMS4 students also have access to research rotation electives which are required by some specialized residencies, but all students are encouraged to consider a research rotation regardless of their desired residency specialty.

Medical students need to remain in good academic standing to participate in WCUCOM-related research projects. If research projects are grant-funded, the principal investigator is responsible for any support provided to the student. If the research project is not grant-funded, the student may request university funds from the Associate Dean of Research to help defray expenses.

Students making significant progress in a research or scholarly activity project should consult with their faculty mentor about the possibility of publishing and/or formally presenting this work in an appropriate venue. Presenting at an off-campus meeting will require approval from the WCUCOM Dean, particularly if travel funds are requested, or if a significant number of class absences are involved. Publication in a prestigious medical journal, or presentation at a national conference is certainly a desirable goal. However, many other venues, including regional and state meetings, which may also result in publications, are strongly encouraged as well. All medical students conducting research projects are asked to present at the annual WCU Research Day which occurs during the spring semester.

Research Funding

WCUCOM is able to provide seed funding for faculty-initiated pilot projects through the internal budget of the Associate Dean of Research, who is advised by the Research Committee for substantial requests. Requests for other types of support such as journal publication charges, data sets, outside consultant requests, etc. should be made to the Associate Dean of Research well in advance of need.

All proposals for external grant funding must follow university procedures. WCUCOM encourages collaborative and Interdisciplinary/Interprofessional projects.

Biomedical Research Laboratory

WCUCOM has a biomedical research laboratory facility in the Academic Building (COM 1), Room 116. The laboratory is a 2,200 square foot facility that includes two tissue culture rooms, a prep room, and a cold room. The open laboratory design concept includes six mobile lab benches, a chemical fume hood, lab benches lining two walls, and a third wall lined with cubicle workstations. Laboratory records and functions are linked through electronic laboratory notebooks and a private intranet system. The biomedical laboratory houses a fluorescent microscope, and a full array of standard laboratory equipment. Space in the biomedical research laboratory is allocated based on the needs of ongoing projects, with priority given to externally funded projects.

Teaching & Research Facilities

Most of the COM teaching facilities double as research facilities, particularly for medical education research. This includes the Osteopathic Principles and Practices teaching laboratory; the Innovative Learning Center (ILC) utilized for research related to clinical practice, telehealth, and clinical simulation; and the Ross Anatomy Laboratory utilized for anatomical and radiological sciences research.

Institutional Review Board

The William Carey University Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews all proposed research conducted by faculty and students. Information about the IRB, including forms and meeting schedules, can be found at Institutional Review Board webpage.

Library & Statistical Resources

The WCU library maintains both hardbound and electronic subscriptions supporting the practice of evidence-based medicine as well as health-related research of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the School of Nursing, the School of Physical Therapy, and the School of Pharmacy. In addition, the University of Southern Mississippi is a 10-minute drive from the WCU campus and the USM library resources can be accessed on site. Many faculty have statistical expertise. The Director of Student Research is an epidemiologist and provides study methodology and biostatistical support for both student and faculty research projects.

Local Residency Programs

Hattiesburg is the home of two hospitals, Forrest General (FGH) and Merit Health Wesley (MHW). The former houses a family medicine residency program while the latter houses emergency medicine, internal medicine, and rotating internship residency programs. WCUCOM students on clinical rotations in Hattiesburg and other Mississippi residency sites interact extensively with the residents and participate in research projects in resident-student teams.

Italo Subbarao, DO, MBA

Dr. Subbarao, our Dean, is a leader in domestic and international disaster response including terrorism. He has provided field and technical support to the Haiti Earthquake, the Mumbai Shootings, Hurricanes Gustave and Ike, Hurricane Katrina, the Pakistan Earthquake, and other large scale events. He has published and edited over 60 books and articles and has been an invited speaker to many domestic and international sponsored conferences which include US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations. Dr. Subbarao’s research at WCU focused initially on social media (Twitter) as part of an early warning system for imminent threats. Currently his research team is developing prototype telemedicine-equipped ambulance drones to serve as first responders in inaccessible disaster situations.

Melissa Stephens, MD, MS, FAAFP, DABFM

Dr. Stephens’ most recent research has been centered around a variety of topics related to primary care and population health. Her work with the Lamar and Forrest County Emergency Management Coalitions has led to participation in simulated mass casualty exercises, during which research has been initiated in the areas of triage accuracy and communication. Future proposed research topics include the impact of community disaster preparedness and public education on individual and community resilience. Dr. Stephens is also actively involved with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi and the CAST (Child Advocacy Studies Training) Network of Mississippi. She and several colleagues were awarded a grant to pursue the training of osteopathic medical students using the CAST curriculum. In 2019, Dr. Stephens was the recipient of the Society of Osteopathic Medical Educators Marguerite Elliott Award for Innovation in Clinical Medical Education for her implementation of CAST in medical education. Future proposed research topics in this area include the impact of medical education in child advocacy and child maltreatment, as well as physician recognition and response to abuse and neglect. Dr. Stephens’ team also has ongoing research projects related to the practice of infant and maternal care in Mississippi and the evaluation of a curriculum designed to teach health care providers about the unique needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Carol Morreale, PharmD, MPH, MS, BCGP

Dr. Morreale’s current research interests are in geriatrics, interprofessional education, and child advocacy. Working along with Dr. Melissa Stephens, she is actively involved with the CAST (Child Advocacy Studies Training) Network of Mississippi., for which they awarded a grant for the training of osteopathic medical students using the CAST curriculum. As member of both the Lamar and Forrest County Emergency Management Coalitions, Dr. Morreale participated in mass casualty simulation exercises, working with the team on research surrounding communication and triage. A future research topic in this area includes looking at the ability of older adults to adequately prepare for disasters. Additional research interests in geriatrics include the impact of medical education in the area of elder abuse on physician recognition and response to abuse and neglect and the effects of social isolation on older adults. Other proposed research topics include student attitudes toward the development of interprofessional education and experiential learning in the osteopathic curriculum.

Kenneth “Cal” Hisley, PhD

The aim of Dr. Hisley’s current research is to understand the flow and representation of anatomical information through the integrated medical school curriculum and how it might be optimized for more effective teaching and rigorous assessment, especially in support of clinical education. There are four main projects for this effort: 1) developing and testing methods for representing complex sequences of lecture/laboratory topics displayed in visual curricular maps, 2) the application of advanced visual technologies to optimize understanding of complex spatial relationships in each anatomical topic presented in the map, 3) designing more effective methods in teaching cadaver-based anatomy in the dissection laboratory, and 4) the development and verification of innovative knowledge assessment techniques.

Kamal Abouzaid, MD, PhD

Dr. Abouzaid’s research interests fall into three main areas: 1)investigation of the effectiveness of the addition of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Methods to first-year medical anatomical education learning in both lecture hall and dissection laboratory, 2) revisiting the Incisura Dextra of Gans to categorize the related intrahepatic bile ducts: implications for living-donor-liver-transplantation, and 3) application of laparoscopic techniques to improve the understanding of the organization of the peritoneal cavity.

Danielle Fastring, PhD, MS, MPH

Dr. Fastring’s research interests include addressing health disparities in the Gulf South region. She utilizes a community-based participatory approach to build academic-community partnerships to address upstream inequities related to the social determinants of health. Currently, her projects include (1) increasing screening, vaccination, and care linkage for Hepatitis B in the Vietnamese communities living in coastal MS, (2) serving as the evaluator for the MSDH Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs program, and (3) providing biostatistical and study design support for a clinical trial in the Delta to determine the effectiveness of Community Health Workers in improving cardiovascular disease outcomes. She serves on the Executive Board of the MS Public Health Association as the Southern Regional Representative, as an Executive Board member on the Gulf Coast Youth Health Coalition, and as a founding member and Chair of the Gulf Coast Healthy Communities Collaborative.

David R. Dolbow, PT, DPT, PhD, RKT

Dr. David Dolbow has over 33 years of experience working in rehabilitation medicine with the United States Veterans Affairs Medical System as a Clinical Kinesiologist, Exercise Physiologist, Physical Therapist, and Physical Therapist Research Specialist. Dr. Dolbow has treated individuals with a wide variety of physical conditions and has a Certification in Neurologic Clinic Practice. Over the past decade, Dr. Dolbow has been investigating the effects of spinal cord injuries on functional mobility, body composition, and the risk of secondary comorbidities. Dr. Dolbow’s research interests include improving the quality of life in those with spinal cord injuries and other paralytic conditions by improving functional mobility and decreasing secondary morbidities such as obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Primary investigative modes of treatment include various activities induced by electrical stimulation, arm ergometry, and intermittent pneumatic compression. Dr. Dolbow has published over 70 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and is a featured speaker nationally and internationally at rehabilitation and research conferences each year.


Goal 1: Develop research and scholarly activities for students throughout undergraduate medical education

Goal 2: Expand research opportunities for preclinical students

Goal 3: WCU Research Day

Goal 4: Support student dissemination of research


Goal 1: Increase Faculty Scholarship

Goal 2: Increase Grant Submissions from faculty

Goal 3: Develop Preceptor faculty

Goal 4: Expand research opportunities for OMS3/4 students through institutional affiliations


Goal 1: Population Health research

Goal 2: Preclinical Medical Education research

Goal 3: Osteopathic research


Goal 1: Externally funded, targeted student recruiting with research component

Goal 2: Externally funded Master Preceptor Fellowship with community-based project

Goal 3: Externally funded hubsite/residency initiative in the Mississippi Delta region