Student Research Spotlight June 12, 2019
Annie Phung (DO ‘21)
Annie Phung (left), (DO '21), worked with a Johns Hopkins geriatrician to understand barriers
and facilitators involved in coordinating care for older adults with cognitive impairments.
Annie Phung (DO ’21) graduated from the University of California, Irvine, where she
earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. During college, she
found a passion to help the elderly and worked with the memory care program at a local
assisted living facility. She completed her Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences with the thesis track at PCOM Georgia and was accepted into the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program. While pursuing an interest in older adult care, she found the Medical Student
Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program that offered first year medical students
the opportunity to participate in research for geriatric medicine at various institutions.
She ventured to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, to immerse
herself in the world of academic and clinical geriatric medicine.
What did you study?
I wanted to learn about various types of research and found an interest in qualitative
studies. With the guidance of my Principal Investigator, a Johns Hopkins geriatrician,
our research team analyzed transcripts of conversations between primary care clinicians,
cognitively impaired patients and their caregivers. My research focused on understanding
the barriers and facilitators involved in coordinating care for an older adult with
cognitive impairment. Such factors included education and advocacy of the caregiver
as well as coordinating language and records between the primary care clinician and
What prompted you to pursue research?
As a thesis student in graduate school, my advisor, Dr. Harold Komiskey, professor of neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology, stimulated my interest in
research. He introduced me to literature that would spur my thesis question on astrocytes
and neurodegeneration. He allowed autonomy for my curiosity to grow and freedom for
me to mold my project. In short, it was an enjoyable experience and I saw how rewarding
research could be. Naturally, when I realized I could spend a summer to participate
in research, I was excited for the opportunity to immerse myself in an environment
dedicated to help older adults.
What experiences do you have with research?
During my undergraduate career, my research opportunities convinced me that research
probably wouldn’t be integrated in my future career. However, after my thesis work
and summer with MSTAR, I’ve experienced the reward, the collaboration and the critical
thinking that make research enjoyable and applicable in medicine. The camaraderie
involved in brainstorming project questions, methods and applications is an aspect
of medicine that is relevant and relatable.
What is the broader impact of your work?
By understanding the factors that facilitate or create barriers for care coordination
of older adults, we, as future clinicians, can work towards improving our patients’
care and management.
Where was your work presented?
I had the humbling opportunity to present my research at the 2019 American Geriatric
Society Annual Scientific Meeting in Portland, Oregon, where I not only shared my
project but learned more about the field and the current issues in medicine. It was
an eye-opening weekend where I met geriatricians who were passionate about their patients,
their field and mentorship. Attending the conference gave me more insight on pursuing
a future career in geriatrics. The entire trip was funded with grants from the PCOM Alumni Association and the Department of Research, along with a stipend from the MSTAR program.
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