May 22, 2009

Emphasis program furthers students’ research

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Vanderbilt medical student Kassatihun Gebreramlak discusses her research with Denis O'Day, M.D. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Emphasis program furthers students' research

At last week’s Emphasis Program Forum IV, second-year School of Medicine Students got the chance to show off their research projects.

Emphasis Program Director Denis O’Day, M.D., professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, introduced 14 students and their work, several of which have implications for ongoing research at Vanderbilt.

Suzanne Bryce, who just completed her second year of medical school, described her project, entitled “Cognitive Impairment and Comprehension of Emergency Department Discharge Instructions in Older Patients.” Bryce found more than half of the 114 patients she surveyed at discharge from the Vanderbilt ED were cognitively impaired and did not understand important parts of their discharge orders.

Mentor Jin Ho Han, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, said the importance of student projects, like Bryce’s, cannot be understated.

“Suzanne and I talked about how, as emergency physicians, we may walk into a room and provide older patients their discharge instructions. Some of these patients acknowledge that they understand what you are saying, when they actually don’t. This may lead to non-compliance of their discharge instructions and potential adverse outcomes after we send them home,” Han said.

“Here at Vanderbilt, we had the advantage of having access to the CAM-ICU (Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit), which was developed by Dr. Wes Ely and his colleagues. This tool was developed for the Intensive Care Unit, but we have found that its usefulness may extend to the ED setting. In the future, we hope to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of incorporating such an assessment into the ED setting,” Bryce said.

Han and Bryce continue to work toward that goal. The experience of presenting  the Emphasis project will further Han’s own, larger research efforts and may bring Bryce closer to publication on this topic.

“The nice thing about the Emphasis Program is many Vanderbilt junior investigators have a lot of ideas, but not a lot of funding. Everybody wins with this program — the investigator and students,” Han said.