This year's theme is Representations of Health. Tomorrow, we will post a description of that theme and profiles of this year's participating students as well as a brief description of their project.
Today, however, we bring you a blog from one of last year's participants, Andrea Molino, about her experience developing and implementing a project under the theme of Health & Diversity. Health and diversity is a timely topic and addresses concerns for patients, minority groups, professionals, and healthcare technologies. This theme includes issues related to: (a) diversity and access to U.S. healthcare, (b) disparities in health outcomes, and (c) diversity within the U.S. healthcare system. Andrea worked with Kaityln Lapen to look at parental ethnicity and antibiotic knowledge. Below, Andrea talks about her time on this project.
Student Research Mentor Program: A Successful Pilot Year
By: Andrea Molino
The Research Mentor Program was started by Dr. Jennifer Sarrett of the Human Health department. The program provided an opportunity for Human Health majors to design their own research project around the chosen theme of “Health & Diversity.” Students submitted a proposal, and if chosen, were matched with a graduate mentor based on the project’s design and topic. After the year of research, all the students came together and presented their projects and findings. Four projects were chosen this year and everyone was very passionate about their research.
I did a joint project with my close friend Kaitlyn Lapen. Our project “Parental Ethnicity and Antibiotic Knowledge” aimed at understanding the ethnic group differences in parental expectations and pressures regarding antibiotic prescriptions for their children. We also investigated the demographic variables that could affect antibiotic knowledge, expectation and pressures towards a physician, such as income, education level, and number of children. We collected all of our data through an online survey, which we advertised around Atlanta and in online communities. We ended up with roughly 60 participants, which was lower than we hoped, but it gave us some data to work with.
I initially became interested in this topic because of Kaitlyn. She was doing research on antibiotic resistance from factory farms over the summer, but she’s always had an interest in the human aspect of bacterial resistance. She emailed me some interesting articles that showed how physicians are more likely to prescribe an antibiotic to a child if the parent seems like they’re expecting one. This expectation perceived by the physician was sometimes a better predictor of prescription than if the child actual needed one. We both found this interesting (and concerning) but noticed there wasn’t much data on what predicted if a parent expects an antibiotic. We thought this problem could be better combatted by understanding why parents expect a prescription through demographic variables because it’s clearly leading to over-prescription.
This project really gave Kaitlyn and I the opportunity to direct our own research. This was challenging, but it forced us both out of our comfort zone, which is personally where I learn best. Most research experiences in college aren’t this hands on, and students are generally just told what to do. With the help of our mentor, Allie Macdonald from the Psychology Department, Kaitlyn and I designed an entire project, wrote our own survey, collected our own data, and emerged with a result we could call our own. After our data collection and analysis, we found that low antibiotic knowledge and high pressure towards a physician for a prescription were significantly correlated. Parents with less antibiotic knowledge were the ones more likely to expect and pressure a physician for an antibiotic. If future research was to be done, Kaitlyn and I decided it would be important to determine what factors predict low antibiotic knowledge.
Given all of this independence, we did run into some challenges. Neither of us are from Atlanta, so we had to figure out where to advertise to increase the diversity of our participants. We had to account for the fact that we didn’t have funding and couldn’t compensate for survey participation, and through some trial and error, we learned the ins and outs of the IRB. Our mentor was incredibly helpful, and in the end, we emerged with an interesting result, some future research directions, and a year’s worth of independent research experience.
So few research experiences in college allow you to call a project completely your own and learn in such an independent way. Kaitlyn and I emerged with something completely personally generated that we’re proud of, which was truly a great feeling.
I would like to thank Dr. Sarrett for giving me this opportunity this past year, and Kaitlyn and my graduate mentor, Allie Macdonald for helping us every step of the way!