Medical Students Spend Summer in Population Health Immersion

Tuesday, October 24 2017

NYU School of Medicine students Garseng Wong & Elaine De Leon were Population Health Summer Research Fellows in the summer of 2017.
NYU School of Medicine students Garseng Wong & Elaine De Leon were Population Health Summer Research Fellows in the summer of 2017.

Each summer, the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health offers first year medical students the opportunity to participate in the Summer Research Fellowship Program. Selected fellows work with a dedicated faculty advisor on a scholarly research project. Fellows complete their projects and present findings at a research seminar with program faculty. They also attend weekly journal clubs and are expected to lead one with a faculty co-facilitator.

Garseng Wong, a rising second-year medical student, worked with Mark Schwartz, MD, professor and vice chair for education in the Department of Population Health and director of the population health pillar of NYU School of Medicine’s curriculum, on the project CHORD New York City: Community Health Outreach to Reduce Diabetes, a randomized controlled trial that integrates community health workers (CHWs) into primary care teams at NYC Health+Hospitals Bellevue and the Veterans Affairs Hospital New York to provide health coaching and prevent diabetes among prediabetic patients. The CHWs provide behavioral counseling, referrals, and encourage lifestyle change through shared experiences and social support that extends beyond primary care clinic visits. A concurrent study of the program aims to test a scalable model of peer health coaching to address and prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes among the millions of patients at risk.

Wong interacted directly with CHWs, conducting qualitative interviews about their experiences in the field, with questions such as where are they from? What drew them to this kind of work? Did the training prepare them for their work in the field? Wong then used their responses to code and identify themes.

Fellow medical student Elaine De Leon worked with Brian Elbel, PhD, associate professor of population health and director of the Section on Health Choice, Policy and Evaluation Health Policy, on a project related to racial residential segregation in New York City and how access to health-promoting food and built environment entities may differ by level of segregation. To help her address this question, De Leon used data from a variety of sources including the United States Census and New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of City Planning.

Medical students are encouraged to apply for the Summer Research Fellowship in order to gain hands-on research experience, and each student is driven by their own personal reasons. De Leon applied because “I worked in public health, and [I wanted] to go back to something I felt comfortable with after a challenging year.” De Leon, who conducted research on the built environment as an undergraduate thought it was “exciting to see how the field evolved over the last nine years.” Meanwhile, Wong was drawn to the summer fellowship because he wanted to work with Dr. Schwartz, who Wong highly respected. It also appealed to him that the study’s community health worker model has never been integrated into primary care before. “We feel like pioneers in that regard,” he says.

“[By the end of the fellowship] I will have learned how to do qualitative analysis and systematic review, learned about panel management, and community health workers,” Wong explained “I wasn't involved with research prior to this,” he said, adding that “this opportunity strengthens presentation skills and exposes us to faculty work and career paths.”

Both fellows are planning to be primary care physicians and intend to apply their experience to future careers. De Leon plans to continue conducting research on the social determinants of health and is hoping to collaborate on interdisciplinary health-related projects with researchers, while Wong hopes to use his new research, qualitative analysis, systematic review, and panel management skills in his career.

Faculty interested in mentoring a student next summer can submit project opportunities to be listed in a directory accessible to students. Project submissions are being accepted until November 15, 2017.