HH&Y Program Challenges Students to Design Their Own Research
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HH&Y Program Challenges Students to Design Their Own Research

March 2, 2023

Engaging in research is an important part of students' education at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), as it enhances their critical thinking ability and encourages them to contribute new knowledge to improve patient care.

The Havas Health & You (HH&Y) Research Scholars program, announced last spring, is an innovative approach to research designed specifically for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students. PCOM is the first and only medical school to partner with HH&Y on a research program. This pilot program paired DO students with HH&Y mentors who guided them through the research process. Students submitted research proposals of their own design and worked with the mentors to facilitate their research efforts and guide them to completion. The initial cohort of three students has been engaged in their respective projects since the fall of last year.

Andrew Morgan (DO '25) has focused his research on the relationship between caregivers and patients with Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias. “I’m trying to figure out the relationship between the caregiver and the physician and what might be lacking there, if anything, and how we can ultimately bridge that gap for better patient outcomes,” he said. The connection to this research for Morgan is personal. “My grandma had Alzheimer's, and my mom was her primary caregiver,” he said. “And when I was going through it with her, she never really felt too supported by the physician, so I thought it'd be interesting to figure out why that might have been.”

PCOM medical student Rachel Lamy (DO '24)For Rachel Lamy (DO '24), a third-year student hoping to specialize in ophthalmology, the program provided a unique opportunity to explore her own academic interests and develop a project that was personally meaningful. “A lot of research during medical school is research that’s been established by residents or attendings,” she said. “This was a really cool experience where you start with your own proposal and then go through the entire process of doing research, but of course, you’re supported [by the HH&Y mentors] along the way.”

As a new program, Lamy said she initially didn't know what to expect from the experience, but would now recommend it to other students in future cohorts. “Absolutely,” she said. “I think it's been really helpful because it's so independent. It's been really good for me to focus on those research skills and create a research question that’s achievable. That's something I've learned along the way.”

For other students, like Tori Abdalla (DO '25), the opportunity to take an idea that might otherwise remain just an idea and create something actionable from it was exciting. “I think it's a really great opportunity if you're interested in research, especially if you have just a spark of an idea, but need help molding it,” said Abdalla. “I have a lot of ideas, but the execution is a challenge without real-world experience.” 

PCOM medical student Tori Abdalla (DO '25)“The opportunity to apply theory to practice is a really important, and often missing, part of graduate training,” said Brad Davidson, PhD, director of medical anthropology at Havas Health & You and one of the mentors in the program. “I'm excited that we can help connect these students to something practical and real while they are still in their program.“

Upon completion of their respective projects, Morgan, Lamy and Abdalla will have the opportunity to present their research both internally and at conferences. Their research is also expected to result in publication of their findings.

Like any worthwhile experience, the program has, at times, challenged the student participants. “It's definitely brought me out of my comfort zone,” said Morgan. “I've definitely had to grow a lot through it, but it's been really beneficial, and without the program, I wouldn’t have done this [research] on my own.”

Learn more about student research at PCOM.

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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

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