Preparation Meets Opportunity: Biologist-Turned-Med Student Publishes COVID-19 Vaccine Study   

Preparation Meets Opportunity: Biologist-Turned-Med Student Publishes COVID-19 Vaccine Study

Elizabeth Titova

Former CDI research scientist–and current HMSOM student–Elizabeth Titova authors new research analyzing COVID-19 vaccination response by immunocompromised populations.

It's not every day a person's experience, education, and training converge into professional success so early in one’s career.

That day came, however, for first-year, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine (HMSOM) student Elizabeth Titova, whose background in phlebotomy and scientific research led her clinical study around COVID-19 vaccination to be published in Microbiology Spectrum, an open-access ASM Journal.

Titova, of Fair Lawn, N.J., was a scientist and clinical research coordinator for two years at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), completing her 2023 research study before beginning her med school career. She recruited more than 600 patients to assess T-cell and antibody responses in COVID-19 vaccinated patients with special focus on immunocompromised individuals.

Her research was completed in partnership with HMH’s John Theurer Cancer Center (JTCC) and with clinical laboratory firm Quest Diagnostics.

“I was ecstatic to hear that all our efforts have finally come to fruition,” said Titova. “These are important results that we collected and analyzed during a global health crisis. We have done our part to bolster the scientific literature.”

In her study, Titova found that while naturally stronger in immunocompetent individuals, the immunocompromised population—”especially cancer patients undergoing treatment”—still received a “robust immune response” from the vaccine, indicating protection against SARS-CoV-2. This response would impact both likelihood of infection, as well as the possibility of the disease’s progression into its potentially-deadly complications, most prevalent in those with comorbidities including immune deficiency.

“This was truly a team effort. I want to thank the JTCC clinical team for its help in patient recruitment,” said Titova. “I also want to thank the Quest team for helping in every aspect of the process, from coordinating sample collection to assisting with analysis and moving the paper forward to publication.”

Titova has been published as a research scientist since first beginning with the CDI, gaining publication and co-authorship in journals such as MDPI’s Viruses, reinforcing the theories of COVID-19 vaccination importance among today’s commonly accepted best practices for stemming the tide of the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

“Elizabeth’s reputation in medical research preceded her as she chose to chart a path to becoming a physician,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, president and dean of HMSOM. “We are lucky to have such an accomplished and dedicated student on campus, advancing medical science.”

Through her scientific studies and authorship, Elizabeth Titova is already positioned as an accomplished researcher in the field of microbiology, especially as it pertains to COVID-19. Through her current education and training, she now hopes to be a leader in the clinical setting.

“In her two years working at the CDI, I’ve personally witnessed so much potential already realized in her career path,” said Dr. David Perlin, chief scientific officer at CDI. “I know she’ll be a phenomenal clinician through the same dedication and passion she demonstrated in the lab.”

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