Marian Benjamin

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) has been awarding the Minority Trainee Travel Award (MTTA) since 2002, but at this year’s International Conference (IC) in New Orleans, there was a rarity: One of the 20 recipients was an 18-year-old high school student! By his own admission, Wynton Kun was, until a couple of years ago, “one of those kids who played video games all day.” One day he decided he had better stop sitting around and do something worthwhile. With the help of his mother, who is a home mechanical ventilation program nurse at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, Kun hooked up with Thomas G. Keens, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at the hospital.

Keens told RT via e-mail that Wynton wanted to do some research over the last school year. “The best type of project was a retrospective medical record review,” he said.

Working with Keens, Wynton chose as his research topic the effect of multiple x-rays in home mechanical ventilation patients who had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He found that, on average, the 28 patients readmitted for pneumonia received five chest x-rays over a single hospitalization, but that two thirds of those x-rays did not result in any change in treatment. Nor were the majority of discharges contingent upon x-ray findings. Kun suggests that lowering the frequency of x-rays could be beneficial to patients, and this practice should be critically evaluated in terms of economical and clinical outcomes.

“As you can image,” Keens told me, “Wynton stepped into a foreign world and it took him some time to understand the implications of what he was doing. However, once he had his data collected and began to analyze it, he began to get excited.”

The MTTA, which is supported by an educational grant from Merck, helps pay for travel for trainees of under-represented minority backgrounds, as defined by the National Institutes of Health (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, or Pacific Islander), to attend the ATS International Conference. The recipients present their abstracts during poster sessions and are honored at the Diversity Luncheon during the ATS IC. The MTTA program is jointly managed by a subcommittee of the membership and training committees of the ATS. The subcommittee reviews and selects the MTTA recipients, who are ranked on the quality of science and the contribution of the trainee to the work.

What a great opportunity this is to encourage promising young people to perform research in respiratory care, and you can be part of it. If you know of fellows or other trainees (or high school students) who are eligible, please share this information with them. By encouraging future leaders in respiratory care, you will be advancing the profession and assuring the diversity of its members. You can find the eligibility details at the ATS Web site: You can read Kun’s abstract at Click on the “program” tab and then search the abstract sessions for #G9.

—Marian Benjamin
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