June 2012 Diary of an MSTAR Student
June 2012 Diary of an MSTAR Student

Samantha Parker: Finding Her Focus Group

June 28, 2012

This summer I returned to the Weill Cornell Medical College Division of Geriatrics after my first year of medical school at Tulane. Before attending Tulane, I worked as a research assistant in the division on studies about arthritis, pain management, and community-based research. I am very fortunate to be back at Cornell this summer working with Dr. Cary Reid, and it has been wonderful to be back catching up with everyone here.

For my research project, I am investigating a new topic related to my prior work. I am exploring the world of mobile health technologies and their potential use for helping manage chronic pain and pain medications for older adults. This work is an extension of 2011 MSTAR student Mimi Levine’s project from last summer. I’m glad that I have been able to work with Mimi and get her advice on the project.

Today has been a full day completing small tasks for my project. My project this summer is to conduct focus groups with older adults and complete a systematic literature review about telehealth and mobile health technologies. Today I was able to call patients and schedule my first focus group!  I had a setback getting started with the focus groups: one of the study sites from which we had planned to recruit participants thought that their patients would not be able to participate because they were mainly Spanish-speaking and very frail. Since my Spanish is less than proficient, I understood that we could not accommodate this group. However it really made me think about how many research studies and interventions are not reaching vulnerable populations like this one. Luckily my mentor and I have been able to problem-solve this setback, and we asked two senior centers in NYC if we could hold focus groups there. The senior centers were very gracious and offered to host the groups. I had conducted surveys and managed classes at both of these senior centers a few years ago, and it will be nice to return and hopefully see some familiar faces. Today I spoke with both centers to confirm the focus group dates and devise a recruitment strategy.

The highlight of my experience so far has been meeting the other MSTAR students. Today we had a particularly interesting presentation by one of the other students about the impact of music on Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. The study found the music tapped into a part of the brain that was separate from other learned skills, and that patients were able to better recall their memories. Having recently taken neuroscience in medical school, I was able to understand some of the anatomical and functional aspects of the brain disease. I look forward to hearing about other interesting topics in geriatric medicine and expanding my understanding of the field.

Samantha Parker
Tulane University School of Medicine