10/17/18

Future physician-engineer puts her heart and soul into research

Carle Illinois College of MedicineRoxana Azimi is more than happy to spend time in the Midwest, and she’s eager to meet more of her Champaign-Urbana area neighbors.

The ambitious and busy Carle Illinois College of Medicine student and some of her student colleagues recently helped with a screening event at Carle’s Champaign on Curtis.

In partnership with the American College of Physicians and the Heart Rhythm Society, the event was part of a research study about heart disease and stroke risk, and it involves screening for a heart-rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation, or afib.

“You might not know you’re at risk for afib unless you get checked. The screening doesn’t take much time out of your day to find out about a potentially life-altering condition,” Azimi said.

Azimi’s time in the Midwest rounds out her coast-to-coast experience so far. The California native did her undergraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and she worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and did her graduate work at Tufts School of Medicine, all in Boston. Her parents are Purdue University alumni, and her father was a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate student.

Carle Illinois College of MedicineAzimi’s decision to help register participants for the research portion of the event matches where she’s been and where she’d like to go in medicine.

She’s been part of lung cancer research teams and thrives on gaining knowledge that helps patients and transforms their treatment.

“Cancer is one of the most interesting topics in medicine because so much has yet to be uncovered,” said Azimi, who is no stranger to explaining the benefits of research to patients who then often choose to take part.

“When I’m talking with a patient about possibly consenting to be part of a study, I share that today’s treatments are available because patients before them were willing to help the medical community learn.”

And learn she does.

Each week, Azimi meets Carle Adult Medicine patients as she learns and works alongside Jennie Hsu-Lumetta, MD, FACP, a clinical associate professor at the University of Illinois and Carle primary care doctor who trains both medical students and internal medicine residents.

Carle Illinois College of MedicineAzimi’s first-year preceptor knows her student has the heart and mind for great patient care.

“She’s very insightful and very resourceful,” Dr. Hsu-Lumetta said. “Because I believe a holistic approach is essential, Roxana and I spend a lot of time doing what’s necessary to get each patient’s story. We need to be really attuned to what patients are trying to convey.

“They may be worried, scared, unsure – so truly listening and delving deep are so important.”

Gathering information was key at the event.

Participants completed surveys about their health and had a simple heart rhythm evaluation, which only required a fingerprint touch for 60 seconds. Following the screening, participants attended an education session. The process took about 30 minutes.

It also took a lot of Carle teamwork to do what’s best for patients and the community.

“We’re grateful to the volunteer Carle nurses, Internal Medicine residents, Stroke Program and Research Institute staff helping with Saturday’s event to serve our communities,” added Dr. Hsu-Lumetta, one of the primary investigators of the afib screening research study.

“Along with free education on afib and the link to stroke prevention by Dr. Karen Wiarda from the Carle Heart and Vascular Institute in Mattoon and another key investigator, this is certainly a team approach involving healthcare professionals and trainees who really care about the health of our community.”

Afib is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Anyone with at least one of the following could have an increased afib risk:

  • 65 or older
  • Female
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Current smoker
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Valvular or ischemic heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema