- Name: Tammy Jiang
- Year: 2016
- Concentration: Public Health
- What type of research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?
I participated in the Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) program at the University of Pennsylvania during the summer of 2015. There, I worked on two research projects. The first study I worked on examined the treatment seeking experiences of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. I interviewed men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer to understand how they chose specialists and what qualities/characteristics they looked for in their doctors. We found that although there were highly varied patterns of specialist-seeking behaviors, most patients relied almost exclusively on their primary care physicians for referrals to specialists. This means that for preference-sensitive treatment choices, the primary care physician may have an unexpectedly large impact on treatment decisions since previous studies have shown that the specialty and other characteristics of the treating physician may actually be more influential than patient preferences.
The second project I worked on examined the individual, institutional, and environmental risk and protective factors throughout the life trajectory in the development of psychological consequences of acute traumatic injury. Using data from this project, I am currently writing a qualitative thesis on the psychological and emotional responses following traumatic injury in urban Black men.
- How did you find out about this opportunity?
I first learned about the SUMR program through online searches for summer programs in epidemiology and health services research. I also heard about the SUMR program from my friend, Mya Roberson ’16. I’m very interested in epidemiology and health disparities, and the SUMR program helped me develop my research skills and deepen my understanding of health inequities in the United States.
- What is your favorite part about the research process?
Both of the studies I worked on were qualitative ones and I really enjoyed interacting with study participants to understand their experiences with the health care system and challenges they’re currently facing. I learned a lot about how to conduct qualitative research and interact with vulnerable populations. Through these research opportunities, I’ve gained significant knowledge about study design, implementation, data analysis, and writing manuscripts.
- How has being involved with research shaped your future goals and plans?
My research experiences and mentors have encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in epidemiology. I am currently in the 5 year AB/MPH program at Brown and I hope to continue pursuing health disparities research and help identify evidence-based solutions to close health gaps in the United States.
- Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?
My advice for students who are interested in pursuing research is to talk to as many people as possible – your professors, other professors who are conducting research that you may be interested in, graduate students, and people with the jobs that you think you might want to do someday. All it takes is a polite email to set up a meeting and then showing up with a prepared list of questions you want to ask. You can receive invaluable advice from leaders in their fields. From them, you can learn so much about research opportunities and how they got where they are now. You can receive advice on graduate school and life after grad school that will help you make a more informed decision about your future plans. After these conversations, you should follow up about the potential to do research with them. Then, you must work hard and try to learn as much as possible! And if you really want to be a part of some aspect of the research process and are prepared to do the work (or learn on the job), then ask to do it. You have to be your own advocate!