HSRF Introduction: Richael Rayen

Hi! My name is Richael Rayen, and I’m a rising junior. I’m pursuing a major in Neuroscience, a minor in Chemistry, and certificates in Global Health and Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Outside of academia, I’m a Patient Experience volunteer at UPMC and work as a Medical Assistant at the Children’s Hospital while also being involved in a few organizations on campus. Some of my hobbies include playing piano, tennis, reading, and binging Modern Family!

Currently, I am working in the Ackenbom Lab at Magee-Women’s Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Ackenbom. In general, her work focuses on neurocognitive disorders in elderly women after urogynecologic surgery. My research project this summer focuses on the relationships between anticholinergic burden and perioperative neurocognitive disorders in older women. Anticholinergic drugs block the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in many functions in the body, including muscle movement, memory, and cognitive function. Anticholinergic drugs are commonly used to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as allergies, Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, and depression. However, some studies have shown that long-term use of these medications can have negative effects on cognitive function, specifically in older adults. The anticholinergic burden is the sum of these anticholinergic effects of all the medications that an individual is taking. This burden can accumulate over time, leading to cognitive impairment, falls, and other adverse health outcomes. There are several ways to measure an individual’s anticholinergic burden. One of the most used measures is the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden (ACB) scale, which is a validated tool that ranks medications based on their anticholinergic activity and a score of 3 or greater is significant for high burden (equates to causing delirium). My research project will specifically focus on determining the association between anticholinergic burden scale score and postoperative delirium in women ≥60 years of age who underwent major pelvic organ prolapse surgery as well as examining the association between anticholinergic burden scale score and postoperative cognitive dysfunction in women aged ≥60 years who underwent major pelvic organ prolapse surgery.

After graduation, I aim to attend medical school to either become a pediatrician or OB/GYN. Through the Health Sciences Research Fellowship, I will be able to devote my interests in women’s health on a daily basis to my research project. Additionally, through my independent research project, I will be able to develop my critical thinking skills and applications of research in medicine. Outside of my own project, I will learn about other research fields in medicine as well as different research approaches. Overall, the fellowship provides a network of opportunities for scholarship and collaboration to help me achieve my academic and professional goals!

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