The Power of High School Students from Global Thrombosis Forum

by Anish Joshi, Arushi Garud, Divya Honavar, Maya Sompalli, and Shivam Gupta, the GTF Group, Suwanee, GA, USA 

1. Introduction

The AntiCoagulation Forum (ACF,, one of the very respected organizations, had arranged an international conference in which many medical professionals, scientists, and researchers came, and discussed modern ideas for tackling blood clots. The young high school scholars from GTF have always been working very hard to bring themselves into focus in difficult areas such as research, writing, presenting the research to different scientific societies and organizations. The GTF young scholars have created a theme, “We are the future, and the future is here!”.

For the first time, the ACF allowed high school students from GTF to come and present their research in the form of two posters. This was a phenomenal opportunity for young GTF scholars to participate in, and with the many efforts from both parents, mentors, and mentees, we were able to make it a success.

2. Participants in this event

This event was a very large one and needed coordination and support from a variety of people. Here is the listing:

2.1. GTF Scholars

Anish Joshi

Arushi Garud

Maya Somapalli

Shivam Gupta

2.2. Adults

Dr. Atul Laddu

Mrs. Jayashree Laddu

Kedar Joshi

Mrs. Sujata Joshi

Bhaskar Sompalli

Dr. Rupal Gupta

Vipul Gupta

 Shantanu Garud

Mrs. Renuka Garud

2.3. Mentors

Dr. Atul Laddu

Dr. Neha Thomas

Dr. Jawed Fareed

2.4. Support staff

Mrs. Archana Athalye

Mrs. Shubhangi Bongirwar

Mrs. Supriya Sawant

3. Process of creation of research

The Anticoagulation Forum (ACF) invited GTF high school scholars as a follow up of the participation of eight GTF scholars at the 30th International Union of Angiology Congress at Porto Alegre, Brazil in October 2022, since the members of the ACF were very impressed by the excellent performance by the GTF Scholars. Dr. Laddu created and shared with Ms. Ashlee Rhodes from ACF the details of the GTF story which included the history, objectives, and its fabulous achievements during the past 11 years. Ms. Rhodes was so impressed that she went out of the way to create a special booth for GTF at the ACF Conference.  Mentors and GTF scholars were selected during GTF’s tenth anniversary event on January 7, 2023. Dr. Atul Laddu and Dr. Neha Thomas worked together to create two research topics and ran them through with ACF Board members. When the topics were accepted by the ACF Board, Dr. Atul Laddu carved out a schedule for the research projects which was followed to the tee that allowed everything to run smoothly.

4. High School scholars vs experienced researchers

We knew that there would be challenges in the presentations by GTF high school scholars vs experienced medical professionals who would be attending the AC Forum conference. To tackle this potential issue, Dr. Atul Laddu called members of ACF several times to ensure that the GTF scholars would receive as much respect as the other attendees at the ACF. This resulted in setting up a good platform for ACF to give a proper reception to the GTF Scholars. Ms. Liz Goldstein and Ms. Ashlee Rhodes from ACF were our main contact people at ACF, they were able to successfully convey our research topics (see 5.1. and 5.2. below) to the ACF board members. Once Liz and Ashely gave a go-ahead, the 2 teams of 2 GTF scholars each were allocated their topics. These two teams under their respective mentors conducted research on the topics allocated and created a rough draft. During our refinement, we made sure that this script flowed like a story. This script had to be trimmed down significantly to fit on the space allocated by ACF. The co-teams had to do this for over several hours for each of the 2 topics. The two abstracts were finally completed and submitted to ACF. After receiving acceptance of our abstracts from ACF, the co-teams began having practice sessions of what needed to be said. Setting up these sessions was a bit difficult because we’re working with three time zones (EST, GMT, and PST). Next, Dr. Laddu, with the help of Shubhangi, Supriya and Archana immediately put together all the merchandise which included pens, DVT pins, specially created brochures, and proclamation documents. The coordinator of this event was Mr. Kedar Joshi who was on the back end of the booth, and was responsible for travel logistics, lodging, food, and numerous communications with Ms. Tracey Negro. From Kedar’s multiple communications with Tracey, he was able to negotiate the position of the booth. This was fantastic since the GTF booth was the first one the attendees would see, giving us the maximum exposure.

5. Research topics

We knew that the ACF will have several hundred very talented and experienced scientists who will be presenting their research data. It was but natural that we choose the topics for presentation by the GTF Scholars to be very current and not outdated, old ones. The GTF team, therefore, selected 2 very current research topics:

5.1. Biomarkers of Hemostatic Dysregulation by Shivam Gupta, Divya Honavar, Neha Thomas, Atul Laddu, and Jawed Fareed

5.2. Anticoagulant management of COVID-19 patients with thrombotic complications by Arushi Garud, Anish Joshi, Neha Thomas, Atul Laddu, and Jawed Fareed

6. “Getting to Know you” initiative.

This initiative was first initiated by GTF in the IUA Congress in Porto Alegre, Brazil in October 2022. As a part of the “Getting to Know You” initiative, Dr. Laddu had arranged a breakfast meeting with Ms. Cassi Frank, who came up with the idea of the walking DVT Clinic. All the 5 GTF scholars spent about 90 minutes with Ms. Frank talking about their career at GTF, and their future goals. This initiative gave the GTF scholars an excellent opportunity to talk to an expert whom they had never met before, thus breaking that wall of shyness, and letting them talk about the relevant experiences in GTF.

7. Message to the scientists and attendees

7.1. Caprini Risk Score (CRS)

One of the GTF Scholars, Divya, who had participated in the Caprini Risk Score project, told the details of the project to the visitors of the booth. She narrated that this was a part of the research project and resulted in the participation of about 2000 people. Since the research involved working with the data from human beings, the project was submitted to the Institutional Review Board at DePaul University, who later approved the project. The main theme of the project was that one should obtain the CRS in advance of a possible future surgery and keep one copy of the CRS with the physician, so that in case of an emergency that copy can be used, and possibly save the life of the individual. The very important points that were observed from this data was that diabetes is very common amongst Asian Indians, cigarette smoking is still common in the African American, Latino, and Caucasian population, and there is a strong connection between a family history of blood clots and the person suffering from blood clots. The scientists visiting the GTF booth were very impressed with these very vital findings made by the GTF scholars.

8. Comments from ACF, PERT board members

8.1. Allison Barnett, the current President of ACF, “These young children are very precious. Do you mean to say that some of them have flown from Atlanta just for the ACF conference? This is unbelievable! What motivates them? Who motivates them? I see all of them are destined for medicine! Can they make an on-podium presentation in our next meeting?”

8.2. Andrea van Beek, a member of the BOD, said, “Dr. Laddu, no one in the BOD of ACF could believe the superb performance of the GTF scholars. They are so young, and energetic, what made them go through the whole torturous process of getting trained in this research? How do they find the time, and energy to do all these things amongst their school activities? GTF is the talk of the entire ACF conference! GTF was discussed and each member of the BOD was asked to go and visit the GTF booth”.

8.3. Dr. Jack Ansell, MD, the founder, and the EX-President of ACF, “The posters created by the GTF team are of the highest quality and contents. I am very proud of the GTF scholars. How did the high school scholars do this?” Dr. Ansell spent several minutes listening to Atul Laddu when he described the GTF scholars and how the whole process was initiated and completed.

8.4. Jamie Reed, PERT Consortium, “Dr. Laddu, we at PERT consortium are very impressed with these young scholars. Could they and you join us at the PERT Symposium in Austin TX in September 2023 and make such impressive presentations?”

8.5. Ms. Elaine Whalen, member of the AC Forum board, was amazed to hear about the work of the GTF students and asked to listen to the podcasts and see the comic strips done by GTF scholars.

8.6. On Apr 2, 2023, at the closing ceremony of ACF Congress, GTF was called on the podium. The GTF Scholars were busy showing the GTF posters, and therefore Atul Laddu went on the podium to get the wonderful welcome to GTF from the ACF.

8.6. The activities of GTF were mentioned in the monthly newsletter for ACForum for the month of April 2023, a big Honor to GTF, indeed!

9. Comments from the audience

9.1. A scientist visiting from the University of Michigan stated, “You kids are doing some really good work” and also proceeded to show curiosity in learning more about some of the projects done by GTF scholars.

9.2. Dr. Parth Rali from the PERT Consortium commented, “This is a very impressive work by the GTF high school students. Perhaps you should consider presenting your research at the PERT symposium in Austin, TX in September 2023”.

10. Comments from GTF Scholars

Our booth at the AC Forum Conference received high levels of praise from many board members of ACF, as well as several physicians, nurses, and pharmacists attending the conference. The esteemed board members who visited our booth were highly interested in collaborating with GTF, and the other attending members were interested in learning more about GTF.

Both posters presented at the Conference were visited by most of the conference attendees and were visited multiple times by ACF board members.

Several members of the ACF board visited our poster multiple times and made many comments that included words such as “Wow, this is amazing” and “When I was in high school, I certainly was not doing this. It’s great to see you all doing this important work.”

Furthermore, GTF scholars were consistently asked what medical field they were in, or what college they went to, and people were then astounded to hear that these kids were high schoolers!

Arushi Garud

Attending the AC Forum conference was an incredible experience that I learned so much from. This was my first time attending such a prestigious conference, and I was very excited to both present a poster and speak at the booth. On the first day, I met the rest of the GTF team for the first time in-person, and they were all truly some of the best teammates I could ask for. We all instantly bonded, and even came up with project ideas together. The conference began, and I was amazed to see the high levels of interest, kindness, and encouragement from both the board members of ACF, and the attending physician-scientists, pharmacists, and nurses. Everyone was interested in learning more about GTF, as well as collaborating with GTF and visiting the posters that were going to be presented. I was asked by multiple people what my age was, and when they heard that I was a freshman in high school, they were shocked to see such young people at a medical conference. I spoke to several people, telling them about the mission of GTF and about all the past and current projects various scholars in GTF are a part of. I was approached by a board member who was interested in listening to a podcast I had created in the past year about thrombosis GTF. This conference was very educational as well, and I learned about various new anticoagulant therapies, and about many other topics in the vast field of anticoagulation. Also, I was able to practice many important life skills, such as confidence, communication, and listening. This amazing opportunity proved to be an educational and fruitful experience. I would like to thank Dr. Atul Laddu and Ms. Neha Thomas for all your hard work on the posters and for being wonderful mentors, and I would like to thank the team of GTF scholars for being the best team.

The GTF Scholars were the only high schoolers who participated in the AC Forum. This group of 9th, 10th, and 11th graders were not only respected but were the highlight of the booths at this conference! Each scholar had their own special experience at this conference.

To start, Divya was the most experienced attending ACF. It was not her first, and her actions spoke louder than words. Her confident talk about her internship experience with Dr. Joseph Caprini left everyone in awe.” For her, being a leader was part of the GTF Scholar job description, and she immediately bonded with GTF’s newest member, Maya.

Arushi is one of the younger scholars at GTF, but her genuine excitement exceeded even that of the mentors! It was her first conference, and she is grateful for having the opportunity to attend such a prestigious conference. Her genuine excitement and passion for the medical field made her stand out among the attending doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. She was even approached by a board member who was interested in listening to a podcast she had created in the past year about thrombosis. She was able to showcase many important skills she had learned, building her confidence for her promising future. Arushi would like to thank Dr. Laddu, Ms. Neha Thomas, and all the other mentors for putting in an immense amount of effort to help the scholars on the posters and for being wonderful mentors.

Anish is another young scholar, and his leadership was the team’s backbone during these past two days. It was his first visit to a medical conference. What stood out for him during this conference was the bond that was formed between the five GTF scholars who attended. He enjoyed the unique experience of being one of the few high schoolers at the prestigious conference and representing GTF at the forefront, with the GTF booth being one of the first things attendees saw upon entering. In the end, frequent Zoom meetings and phone calls were nothing compared to spending time with his colleagues and finally interacting with some for the first time.

Shivam’s commitment to GTF is evident from his willingness to travel across the country to attend the conference. As a young high schooler, he showed that it is doable to prepare and present high-quality research work, just like the professionals in the field. To Shivam, networking and using the connections he helped make was one of the most rewarding aspects of this ACF conference.

Maya, the newest addition to the GTF team, was called to attend this conference as her introduction to GTF. She describes the experience of walking into the conference room with her badge as surreal since she was one of the only high schoolers there. She immediately bonded with the rest of her colleagues and even started developing a new project idea with Arushi and Divya. Since she wasn’t presenting the posters, she went around and started talking to other physicians who were presenting the posters. According to Maya, the most significant lesson from the conference was the importance of speaking with confidence. In her words, “No matter how much you know or how you compare to others in a particular group, having a strong interest or passion combined with the confidence to express yourself can take you a long way.”

11. Comments from parents

11.1. Atul Laddu

The GTF Scholars did an amazing job. They raised the bar to an even higher level. They were easy to deal with, very accommodative and easy to train.

Thanks to Kedar, Sujata, Anish, Arushi, Divya, Maya, Shivam, Neha, Archana, Supriya, Shubhangi, all the members of the BOD of GTF, the supporting parents of the GTF scholars for making this event a memorable one.

11.2. Kedar Joshi

GTF scholars left a mark on the signature! Kudos to all scholars, another feather in their crown! ACF offering a presentation spot on the stage for 2025 is the testimony of their remarkable performance. Kudos to Divya, Maya, Arushi, Shivam and Anish! Big thanks to Neha n Dr Laddu!

GTF scholars left a mark on the signature! Kudos to all scholars, another feather in their crown! ACF offering a presentation spot on the stage for 2025 is the testimony of their remarkable performance. Kudos to Divya, Maya, Arushi, Shivam and Anish! Big thanks to Neha n Dr Laddu!

11.3. Neha Thomas

Dear Anish, very well done for your kind gesture! You definitely have a very big heart! That’s very thoughtful of you to share the success with everyone. Proud of you and all the scholars! 👌👌🤗

Hi all. Thank you soo much for all the wishes. Honestly it wouldn’t have been possible without each one of you.

All the scholars and parents played a huge role in this meeting and a massive thank you to you all and Dr Laddu for making this a successful event!

Missed you all and thought of you all!

Thank you once again. and bring on more of such amazing conferences and presentations.

Very well done to all the scholars again. this is a feather in their hat.!! And I’m very proud of all of them and their achievements.

Have a lovely rest of the time. And God willing to see you all very soon again!! 🤗

11.4. Rupal Gupta

Rupal: Your extreme dedication to GTF is helping so many scholars.  There is no way to thank you enough.”

Please tell Anish, what a great surprise for his buddies. It’s very nice of him to think of everyone. I am so proud of him.

11.5. Shashank Honavar

“Great conference, fantastic exposure, confident kids, very supporting parents, and mentors. Overall, a great experience. Missed you, Neha.”

Good morning, all – I am so proud to be part of GTF and all its initiatives. My happiness has known no bounds after congratulations have ceased to stop pouring in from my school friends (some of whom I met yesterday in Mountain View) about how a bunch of high schoolers (our GTF scholars) presented such complex topics. Many of my friends (whose kids are the same age +/- as Divya) have expressed a desire to learn more about GTF and if/how they can join GTF. A few of them have indicated to me that they would like to read the 2 posters that were presented. I would like to direct them to the PDF versions of the posters – please let me know how I can do that.”

To dear Anish: “This is indeed a very noble gesture. This thoughtfulness, kindness, and consideration for members of your team are hallmarks of a true leader and will certainly take you places. Developing oratory skills and becoming a skilled and engaging speaker comes with practice, but development of a strong yet caring character comes from years of investment from your parents, never fail to thank them for what you are today and what you will become as you mature into a fine young man ready to take on the world.

Yashwaswi Bhava!!!.

Deerghaaysushi Bhava !!!

Sukhi Bhava!!!.”.

11.6. Bhaskar Sompalli

I have attended nearly 200 engineering symposiums and seminars over the past 25+ years, and I can say with confidence that I have never seen high schoolers get to present a poster, and astonishingly so, never one which was so thoughtfully presented. There were several layers of achievement in what the GTF scholars did in this year’s AC Forum symposium:

11.6.1. They picked topics that were of universal importance to the attendees, evidenced by the impressive foot-traffic around their booth and the poster presentation.

11.6.2. They practiced their talks well and understood their topics deeply enough to carry on meaningful conversations with well-heeled professionals; a feat even grad students struggle to accomplish.

11.6.3. Thanks to the months of work with the poster and the presentation, they were well-prepared to deal with the extraordinary interest their presence in the hall elicited among the audience. We saw a scene that became all-too familiar as the day rolled on: nurses, physicians and researchers strolled in for a chat not expecting well-constructed arguments and left spellbound by the wisdom of these children. I observed an excellent exchange of ideas in a scientific poster presentation, between people who knew their subject matter well.

11.6.4. It was refreshing to see the scholars take on the responsibility of representing the GTF group with confidence and gravity. There was no reason for the parents to hover around the hall, except to arrange lunches for the children. Kudos to Dr. Atul Laddu and the other mentors in preparing the scholars so well, which they achieved via mock discussions and speeches leading up to the day of the ACF event.

11.6.5. The evidence of how well the scholars did is in the repeat invitation for next year’s ACF and the overwhelming interest from three other organizations.

It was a satisfying day in all, and one that revealed to me that instincts for scientific practices can be cultivated in high schoolers as well. Impressive feat.

11.7. Renuka Garud

Participating in the ACF conference and presenting posters was an excellent opportunity for GTF scholars. It was a nice gesture from ACF to allow high schoolers to attend this conference for the first time in ACF history. It’s also incredible that the GTF scholars were the only high schoolers to attend the conference. I am glad to see that all scholars stood up to the challenge, researched their topics, and produced high-quality posters under the guidance of Dr. Atul Laddu and Ms. Neha Thomas. The posters were very well received at the conference. Almost everyone stopped by the booth to learn what the youngest participants were up to. The doctors, nurses, and pharmacists were astounded by the depth of knowledge shown by the GTF scholars. Many conference attendees, including the esteemed organizers, asked the scholars to present their posters again. The ACF board members were heard saying “This is unbelievable” while talking to each other. Apparently, the young scholars were a talking point during the ACF board meeting and all of them made a point to stop by the booth to learn more about GTF and scholars’ backgrounds. I am thrilled to see what these youngsters can achieve with proper guidance. Also, it’s very encouraging to hear that several connections were made at the conference and there are many potential follow-ups, including future invitations.

11.8. Shantanu Garud

I was thoroughly impressed by the depth of knowledge and the level of maturity shown by the GTF scholars. Kudos to Laddu Kaka and Neha for mentoring and preparing them for this conference! Although this was the first professional conference for most scholars, it felt like they were regulars at such events. They were able to create a buzz at the conference and grabbed attention from the organizers as well as ACF board members. Thanks to the GTF board for providing such an awesome opportunity and congrats to the scholars for this successful event!

12. New project ideas

The ACF became a great forum that stimulated several new project ideas for future research by GTF scholars.

12.1. Arterial thrombosis as a GTF project

12.2. Pathophysiology of HIT as a project

12.3. Pathophysiology of VITT as a project

12.4. Role of CRS in Prevention of PE

12.5. Pathophysiology of DVT

12.6. Pathophysiology of PE

12.7. Pathophysiology of stroke

13. New opportunities created

The excellent performance of the GTF Scholars opened new opportunities, since they were invited by the following organizations to present their work at the annual meetings:

 13.1. Pulmonary Embolism Response Team Consortium (PERT) meeting, Austin, TX, September 2023

13.2. Boot Camp by ACF, October 2023

13.3. Thrombosis and Hemostasis Society of North America (THSNA) meeting, Chicago, April 2024

13.4. International Union of Angiology (IUA), Porto, Portugal, June 2024

13.5. ACF 2025

14. Conclusions

We are very proud that ACF invited 5 GTF high school scholars (Anish Joshi, Arushi Garud, Divya Honavar, Maya Sompalli, and Shivam Gupta) to present their research at this international conference.

This was the very first time that GTF had ventured to participate in the ACF event to make presentations, and it is very clear that the results of our hard work proved to be very successful, and we were received very well by the scientific community. The hard work from everyone, from the GTF Scholars, the mentors, the Group leader, the parents of the GTF scholars and the BOD members at the base (Archana, Shubhangi and Supriya) proved to be great teamwork. The GTF scholars impressed the participants of the conference which led to more exposure, and any new connections with professionals in the field were made, positioning GTF to receive many new opportunities in the future. The participation in ACF opened doors for other GTF young scholars to venture in such opportunities created by GTF. The next steps for GTF are to continue with these opportunities to use these contacts to get involved in more such research conferences and presentation opportunities. In addition, us 5 have a major responsibility to prepare and turn the next batch of junior scholars into senior scholars, since the tradition that we created must be kept alive in the future.

The GTF young scholars have thus earned the theme, “We are the future, and the future is here!”.