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Medical Student Wins AOA Research Award

by Maggie Rotermund
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Anne Sescleifer, the top honoree earlier this year at Saint Louis University School of Medicine's 54th annual Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society medical student research forum, received two awards at the national AOA research forum. She was awarded the Byron Bailey Award for Research Excellence, as well as the Best Overall Oral Presentation award.

Anne Sescleifer

Anne Sescleifer is a third-year student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Photo by Ellen Hutti. 

“The National Student Research Forum in Galveston was an exciting opportunity to present my work in front of peers from other medical schools, as well as to hear the research that other students are doing across the country,” she said.

Sescleifer’s project, “Hearing Hypernasality: Online Crowdsourcing of Cleft Speech,” focuses on the shortage of therapists in treating cleft, which is usually addressed using a combination of surgery and speech therapy.

Under the mentorship of Alexander Lin, M.D., associate professor of surgery, Sescleifer used online crowdsourcing to evaluate the speech of children with cleft lip and palate with the goal of determining whether lay raters recruited through online crowdsourcing could match the ratings of speech therapists.

Sescleifer, a third-year medical student, used sound clips from her project during her oral platform presentation. 

“Sharing voice clips allowed me to communicate the need for improved speech outcomes in a more tangible way, because the audience could clearly hear how stigmatizing cleft speech can be for a developing child,” she said. “I was able to share our results, that online crowdsourcing for perceptual speech outcomes is an exciting and novel methodology that holds great promise in the future of speech assessments, and emphasize the clinical importance of these findings for children who are from rural, international, or socioeconomically disadvantaged populations that currently lack routine access to speech language pathologists.”

Speech intelligibility is fundamental to social interactions, Sescleifer said, which is why speech assessments are such an important focus in the care of children born with cleft palate.

Sescleifer said her project focused on the use of nascent technology to address gaps in access to care and that the work has been particularly meaningful to her because it serves to improve clinical outcomes that focus on uniquely human qualities which have a tremendous impact on quality of life.

“Moving forward, Dr. Lin and I plan to continue working on cleft speech assessments, among our other projects using technology to improve the lives of children, including a systematic review investigating the use of 3D printing in pediatric medicine that we hope to publish soon,” she said. “I consider myself very fortunate to attend an institution that is so highly supportive of student research through opportunities such as attending the National Student Research Forum, and that has such dedicated mentors such as Dr. Lin.”

Students are elected into AOA, a national Honor Medical Society, based on scholastic achievement, personal integrity, ability to work well with their peers and promise for significant contributions to the medical profession.


Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease and heart/lung disease.