Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death in the United States. Mainly characterized by increasing breathlessness, COPD has wide-reaching health effects with previous studies showing that patients with COPD have higher rates of depression than patients with other chronic conditions. This summer, I worked on a project titled “Improving Assessment of and Response to Depression in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,” which aims to elucidate the processes through which the mental health needs of patients with COPD are identified and managed within pulmonary clinics. As a part of the research team at the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center, I was given the opportunity to conduct semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, including physicians, nurses, medical staff, patients, and caregivers. These interviews are now being analyzed using qualitative methods, with the goal of identifying key themes and possible areas for improvement in both the identification and management of mental health concerns in patients with COPD.
Through this experience, I was introduced to the world of qualitative research. Although I had some prior interviewing experience from a journalism class, I never knew that the shared experiences of patients and providers could be critically analyzed while still retaining the individuality of each interview. I also gained new clinical research skills, namely with clinical database management programs such as REDCap and PennChart.
I end the summer eager to continue working at the PAIR Center during the school year, and I am immensely grateful to my mentor, Dr. Joanna Hart, and Clinical Research Coordinator, Ms. Amy Summer, for walking me through the ins and outs of the research process.