September 21, 2007

VUSM students’ Emphasis projects supported

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Gold Foundation awardees, from left, VUSM students Alanna Patsiokas, Kristy Kummerow and Krupa Bhojani. (photo by Neil Brake)

VUSM students’ Emphasis projects supported

Three Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students received grants from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in support of their Emphasis projects.

Alanna Patsiokas, Krupa Bhojani and Kristy Kummerow each received $3,000 from the Gold Foundation, which promotes and affirms more compassionate medical care and caregivers through innovative medical education.

The three second-year students chose community health as the topic for their Emphasis projects. VUSM's self-directed Emphasis Program takes place during the first two years of medical school and aims to harness students' skills, talents and passions by allowing them to pursue a project of their choosing.

Patsiokas's project explores whether parents of babies in the NICU who receive support services, such as those offered by Parents Reaching Out, experience less stress than those who do not.

“As a second-year medical student, I had no experience talking with patients or their parents,” she said. “As I grew more accustomed to the NICU environment and more confident in myself, I became much more adept at talking to parents and hope that this helped them as much as it helped me. The relationships I formed with the parents will be ones that I will keep with me for the rest of my career.”

Bhojani's project focuses on which interventions are most beneficial for victims of domestic violence. Current interventions, such as support groups, have not been substantially evaluated, Bhojani said.

“My project is trying to tackle that problem,” she said.

There are several support groups in Middle Tennessee, many of which are run by the YWCA. Bhojani's research involved getting permission from these organizations, and then from individual group facilitators, to attend group meetings. She met with women individually to ask them about their experiences.

“I hope to make more medical students aware of domestic violence and how they can help these women in their careers as doctors,” Bhojani said.

Kummerow gathered quantitative information about the pregnancy and contraceptive use of women incarcerated at the Correctional Development Center (CDC) in Nashville. She also looked at their future pregnancy desires and contraceptive needs. In addition, her research identified common themes in the psychological, emotional and environmental circumstances under which women, who do not want to become pregnant, have unprotected sex. The CDC will use the results of her project to develop appropriate provision-based and education-based interventions, as well as to inform future research.

“Learning about the inmates' reproductive health histories and the thought processes that led to their decisions within the framework of their life circumstances helped me to get to know specific women in this population as individual human beings, each with her unique, complex and compelling story,” Kummerow said.

Barbara Clinton, MSW, Director, Center for Health Services, and Community Health Emphasis program director, said the Gold Foundation honors the cream of the American medical student crop.

“They must combine scholarly excellence with the creative energy to solve urgent public problems. Solving them demands not just scholarly rigor, but a caring heart, too,” she said.