By: Jeremy M. Carr, Ph.D., M.Ed.
Students at Central Alabama Community College (CACC) recently conducted a research study on saline jet nebulization—a breathing treatment prescribed by medical professionals for a variety of respiratory illnesses. The project results, which aimed to understand how much medicine a patient receives during a typical breathing treatment, were published last week in the Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy (https://www.cjrt.ca/wp-content/uploads/cjrt-2021-055.pdf).
“The fact that five (CACC) students were published in a scholarly journal is beyond exceptional,” explained Jeremy M. Carr, project leader and CACC Chemistry Instructor. “Very few undergrads ever get this experience.”
The project began in 2018 when Carr’s newborn son (James) required frequent saline nebulization breathing treatments. At the time, no one in the medical field knew how much saline mist “Baby James” was inhaling. To find an answer, Carr enlisted some of his chemistry students to use their laboratory training. The resulting team—Martin Flores, Taz Caldwell, and Kalysa Passmore—crowdsourced materials and supplies through social media. Eventually, the team connected with Kaylen Thomas (Encompass Health Corporation) who supplied them with nebulizer equipment.
“Anything we can do to assist in educational opportunities to aid in the development of the future workforce is a benefit to us all,” said Thomas.
“Kaylen’s modest, but her contribution to this project was enormous,” Carr said. “With tight budgets, nebulizers are hard to come by. We could not have done this project without her help.”
The nebulizer team met every Friday for two semesters in the CACC chemistry laboratory. After months of data collection, the team’s results indicated that they could reliably predict how much saline mist a patient received during a typical breathing treatment. This information was not yet known to medicine, so they opted to publish their findings as a peer-reviewed research paper.
“The nebulizer research project gave me first-hand experience in great undergraduate research,” said CACC alumnus Taz Caldwell. “It showed me what research is, and how we as scientists use it to find answers to questions about the world. This is where I earned my lab coat!”
Kalysa Passmore (left), Taz Caldwell (upper right), and Martin Flores (lower right) prepare samples for the saline jet nebulization research project at CACC.
“We felt really good about the science, but the medical applications were a challenge,” said Carr. “We needed some additional direction.”
To help with this process, Carr enlisted two CACC alumnae—Registered Respiratory Therapist Megan Denney (Russell Medical) and Carr’s wife Nurse Practitioner and CACC Adjunct Instructor Kerri Carr (Neurology Consultants of Montgomery).
CACC Alumnae Megan Denney, RRT (left) and Kerri Carr, FNP-BC (right) contributed to the saline jet nebulization research project’s clinical applications.
“I loved their research,” said Denney. “I was so flattered that they asked for my opinion on the results. I helped with editing and made suggestions about how medical professionals could use the information,” explained Denney.
“We came into this therapy with our child who required saline nebulization due to complex medical disorders, and it was a privilege to be able to add to the scientific body of knowledge about a therapy for which I have personally seen benefit patients,” said (Kerri) Carr.
The publication, which is featured on the Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy website has received positive responses from reviewers and readers, alike.
“Everyone was highly supportive of and intrigued by what we accomplished,” said Carr. “Most researchers expected this work to be done by graduate school scientists, not community college students. I’m hoping that it will help elevate these students’ resumes and perhaps open doors to exciting careers!”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect in this project is the students’ gains. Since working on the project, all have become CACC alumni and have gone on to pursue incredible feats.
Megan Denney and Kerri Carr are highly successful medical professionals, tirelessly serving the Central Alabama region. Kalysa Passmore is completing her mechanical engineering degree at The University of Alabama. Martin Flores is an Auburn University undergraduate fellow applicant in chemical engineering research, pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. Taz Caldwell graduated from Auburn University and is now a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at The University of Mississippi.
CACC President Jeff Lynn hailed the accomplishment.
“Coaching a group of students to solve scientific problems at the community college level is an outstanding feat and a testament to how CACC is trying to meet the needs of our community while serving our students. I’m very proud of their work, and I know it will help propel their careers!”
As for the future of this project, Carr said that there’s still lots to do, especially with CACC students interested in science and/or research.
“I can think of 5-6 new related studies that I’m eager to complete now that we’ve reached this achievement,” said Carr. “There are also a handful of grants that I’m interested in pursuing. But, I can’t do it alone; I need a new group of students to help collect data and make more new discoveries about this popular medical technology.”
For further information please contact Brett Pritchard at email@example.com or 256-215-4254.