For the months of July-December, the Office of Undergraduate Research will be featuring students participating in HHMI/SURF programs blogging about their summer research experiences.
Erica Andrews is a Nutrition major.
My name is Erica Andrews and I am doing pediatric diabetes research this summer. I began my research in Fall 2011 when I first began research with Dr. Mayer-Davis in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. As a nutrition BSPH candidate I am required to do research, and because of my fascination with diabetes, working with Dr. Mayer-Davis was my first choice. She is a professor in the School of Public Health, and the principal investigator for the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study at the Carolina site. SEARCH is a multi-center epidemiological study on pediatric diabetes and it is currently the largest registry of pediatric diabetes patients in the nation. I became involved with the study when I began working with Dr. Mayer-Davis in the fall, and my thesis is an ancillary study to SEARCH. My specific thesis is titled “Pediatric patient perception of mid-level providers and their role in diabetes care and management”. I am collecting a survey from the three South Carolina SEARCH sites, in which participants or their parents (if the participant is under age 18) identify which mid-level providers they see for diabetes, rate how mid-level providers measure up to physicians, and ask if participants or their parents know the role of different providers. The providers included are dieticians, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse educators, certified diabetes educators, and medical social workers. I am planning to match the participants’ survey answers to their glycemic control as measure by Hemoglobin A1C levels. I am expecting that participants who see a team of practitioners will have better glycemic control than those who see only a physician, due to the increased resources that a team can provide. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the everyday life of patients, and it is vital for pediatric patients to have support and resources to draw from. The surveys are being collected at sites this summer, and mailed to Chapel Hill for my data collection process. This summer I am in Charleston, at one of the sites, helping out with participant visits and working in the clinic to better understand diabetes and how it affects individuals, as well as understanding how a research study works. I am also working on my literature review, and beginning to write my thesis this summer. I have already written part of my background section, but I am continuing to add onto it as I find more studies. What has been most difficult for me so far has been finding diabetes studies done on pediatric patients, and the writing itself. I am an analytical learner, and very scientific so writing has never come easily for me. I have no problem understanding the research studies or reading the study findings, but when it comes to relating that study to mine, and summarizing the study, I have a difficult time. I feel that I have already learned more through starting this thesis than I have in most of my other classes. There is something to be said for making something out of nothing, and that is really what research is; it is making hypotheses about things not studied previously, therefore obtaining new knowledge. It is absolutely thrilling to be in a place where I am collecting data in somewhat unchartered territory. My research question has not changed, but the scope has changed from what it was in the beginning. I originally was not planning to tie results from the survey to HbA1C levels, but after speaking with Dr. Mayer-Davis, we decided it would give my thesis more “meat” so to speak. It adds quantitative data about how well patients respond to teams, verses one practitioner alone. Adding HbA1C takes the research from the subjective standpoint of patients and parents to an objective clinical perspective. I think this addition makes my thesis strong, and I am excited to work through it and eventually present it to my colleagues and teachers. That’s all I have for now!