This summer, I worked alongside Dr. Rebecka Peebles at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She specializes in caring for patients with eating disorders (EDs) in the Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Program under Adolescent Medicine. With her guidance, I chose to concentrate on the differences in quality of life (QOL) between adolescent males and females with EDs. This has not been previously studied in a clinical adolescent population, nor with a significant male sample. We analyzed previously gathered medical records and patient questionnaires from a clinical population of adolescents with EDs, including 3 measures of QOL. The results are under the process of validation and further analyses; however, preliminary findings reveal similarly poor overall QOL between sexes as measured by the generic QOL questionnaires. When QOL was measured via impairment specifically from ED symptoms and behaviors, males scored lower than females, meaning their ED impacted them less.
If the results are validated, this exploratory research has the potential to encourage further study on males with eating disorders, a seriously underrepresented and understudied population. And, even if it is not published, my first experience in research provided me with applicable skills and experiences. Through conducting searches in literature and medical records, I learned about patients with EDs from both the sweeping academic and individual life perspectives. Through copious shadowing opportunities, I witnessed the complex and multifaceted provider team who care for sick patients and their parents. Through employing statistical software and data entry cleaning, I realized the labor-intensive aspects of research, although potentially tedious and initially overwhelming, was rewarding and doable.
As I prepare to start my sophomore year in the School of Nursing, the experience of conducting a research project from question to conclusion helped me to realize I want to continue mental health research as a current student and a future professional. As a nurse, I aim to positively impact the lives of my patients as individuals. As a researcher, I hope to improve the health of patients on a larger scale. The opportunity to work with Dr. Peebles this summer (and continuing into the fall), provided the knowledge that I am capable of – and passionate about—pursuing both career paths in order to advance the mental health care field.