Groundbreaking Physician-Researcher in the Making
Faiz Syed’s love for sports and deep commitment to his Islamic religion, which instilled in him a desire to help people, played a big role in his decision to choose a career in medicine. After working as a volunteer at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in high school, he applied to New York Tech’s seven-year dual life sciences, B.S./osteopathic medicine, D.O. program to pursue his dreams of becoming a doctor and publishing research.
But beginning his medical training at the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 meant there were few opportunities for the New Jersey native to work on a research project.
“It was a goal for me coming into medical school to publish a paper,” says Syed, who is set to begin his third year of medical school. “But many professors I reached out to had shut down their projects because of COVID-19 regulations.”
At the advice of one researcher, Syed reached out to Assistant Professor Milan Toma, Ph.D., in NYITCOM, whose research using computational models was not restricted by the pandemic.
Toma had recently started the Engineering in Medicine initiative to create a bridge between students from the medical school and other disciplines and suggested Syed sign up for a project.
A medical school lecture on orthostatic hypotension piqued his curiosity. So, Syed set out to investigate how compressive forces assist in patients with this condition. He recruited his friend and fellow medical student Rejath Jose to join the team.
Using Slack, they connected with engineering students, Sebastian Araya, Katie Mata, and Mary Margarette Sanchez, who rendered a 3-D belt that could inflate to provide compressive forces. The team then sought out the expertise of medical simulation specialist Timothy Devine from the NYITCOM Institute for Clinical Competence, using his lab’s iStan mannequins to simulate a patient with orthostatic hypotension.
“Using a force sensor known as the Juzo pressure monitor we were able to quantify the value of the force exerted on the mannequins by our compressive belt,” Syed explained.
By the end of his second year of medical school, Syed’s dream to publish a first-author paper came true. The team’s findings were published April 26, 2022, in Materials, with Syed and Jose listed as co-first authors. “To finally see my name in print as well as the Pubmed database that I use so often is incredible,” he says. The free searchable database provides access to millions of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical literature.
Syed credits Toma for his unwavering leadership and guidance. “He encouraged the idea and directed us in a way that we could turn it into a potential project that could be published,” he says.
As Syed heads into his third year of medical school, he’ll continue working on projects with Professor Toma and hopes to match with an internal medicine residency followed by a fellowship in cardiology.
When he’s not studying, Syed spends his time strength training and powerlifting. He also volunteers with Parkinson’s disease patients in NYITCOM’s Rocksteady Boxing program offered through the Adele Smithers Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Center. Last year, he served as the president of the NYITCOM Muslim Student Association.