Public Release: 

Boston researcher receives global surgery award

Boston University Medical Center

(Boston)--Maunil Bhatt, MD, a post graduate resident in the Department of Surgery at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center (BMC), was recently honored with a Global Surgery Research Fellowship Award by the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) at their 12th Annual Academic Conference.

Bhatt's project, titled Innovative Method of Screening for Esophageal Squamous Cell Cancers in Rural India, was chosen from 25 applicants. He received $10,000 for his project.

For his study, Bhatt will screen a high-risk population in rural Gujarat, India, for esophageal squamous cell cancer using a device called EsophaCap. This tool is a sponge, compressed into a capsule that is attached to a string. Once swallowed, the outer coating of the capsule dissolves and forms into a sponge in three to five minutes which is then retrieved using the string. The sponge collects the esophageal cells which can then be analyzed to screen for cancerous or dysplastic lesions.

"Our hope is to demonstrate this new method of screening is non-invasive, requires no expertise and will be more cost effective than endoscopy as a screening tool for this deadly cancer in the low- and middle-income countries with very high incidence of esophageal cancer," explained Bhatt.

Born and raised until the age of 17 in Gujarat, Bhatt and his family moved to the US in search of a better future. He attended the University of California Davis and received his undergraduate degree in neuroscience becoming the first person in his family to receive any form of higher education. He then returned to India for a year to volunteer in a range of projects to improve health awareness and access to care in rural parts of the country. Upon his return, Bhatt attended medical school at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He matched with his No. 1 choice, BMC, for a general surgery residency.

Bhatt is interested in global surgery and plans to spend some of his clinical time training and teaching in poor and low income countries that lack the surgical expertise. He hopes to work on addressing the disparities in access to surgical care that currently exists across the country.

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