Alumni on the Value of the Student Summer Research Program

Written by Mary Hopkins. This article will run in the upcoming issue of Campus and Alumni News.

Neda Laiteerapong ’05 is an internal medicine specialist at the University of Chicago who is engaged in health services research.

“I worked with Dr. Karen Freund [BUSM professor of general internal medicine and executive associate director of the Women’s Health Interdisciplinary Research Center] on a project on validating the race and ethnicity data of patients in the hospital database at Boston University. Through this project, I learned a great deal about what defines a person’s race and ethnicity and how complicated that issue is. It’s quite relevant, for example, if you look at the public consternation regarding the race question in the U.S. Census this year.

“I had always thought I’d be a researcher. However, after my initial attempts in basic science research, I was discouraged because I could not see myself in the lab all the time. I didn’t know anything at all about health services research. Working with Dr. Freund was a turning point in my career. It was very challenging at first, since I had no formal research training. However, the summer allowed me to dedicate time and energy to developing those skills. I learned essential tools, like IRB submission, oral presentations, and proposal writing. I learned terminology and concepts, like what grant and community-based participatory research were. After the summer, I was hooked. When I went to residency, I sought out a similar mentor and a research project as soon as I could.

“Health services research is bit of an enigmatic term, but basically it examines how people get access to health care, how much care costs and what happens to patients as a result of this care. Specifically, I am interested in improving physician decision-making in patients with chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity.”

“I see research as a way to affect a larger number of people than you would care for normally as a clinician.”

Graham Snyder ’05 is an infectious disease specialist at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. His research is in the field of infection control and hospital epidemiology.

“During the summer of 2002 and beyond I was introduced to infectious diseases research by my mentor, Dr. Jussi Saukkonen [BUSM associate professor of medicine and director of the pulmonary clinics at the West Roxbury VA Medical Center]. Our project investigated risk factors for non-adherence to treatment for latent tuberculosis infection by administering a survey to patients seen during a first visit to the Boston Medical Center tuberculosis clinic, and subsequently correlating adherence to therapy with results from this survey.

“One of the benefits of this research was not only to connect with patients in a new setting and from a different vantage point (that of investigator), but to get a sense of how challenges in medicine can be solved through asking the right question, planning a test to solve that question, and then interpreting the results of the test. This is part and parcel of the scientific process, which should be structuring our clinical actions every day.

“The practice of infectious diseases appealed to me by the end of medical school and very early into internal medicine residency particularly because it requires a meticulous and creative thought process. This is particularly true when we get the ‘whodunnit?’ type consults requiring a careful history, exam, and brainstorming across disciplines.
My current research is specifically detection and transmission dynamics of antibiotic-resistant organisms including multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria. The general goal is to be able to trace and detect these bacteria, and prevent their transmission from patients to healthcare workers and other patients.”

For more information on the MSSRP go to http://www.bumc.bu.edu/enrichment or if you would like to discuss a contribution to the program, contact Dr. Sarfaty at ssarfaty@bu.edu.