This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jaya Aysola, a physician, professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, and the first Assistant Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at Penn Medicine, through the PURM program. I worked with her through the Center for Health Equity Advancement, of which she is the Director. Through my position, I worked with her on two projects: her Healthy Together Study (HTS) and her HR Policy project.
Dr. Aysola’s Healthy Together Study is a project that investigates how an individual’s social ties impact their cancer prevention knowledge and behaviors. This project had several different components. The first component was to survey patients at a local primary care practice about their social ties and a number of other variables, such as perceived discrimination, amount of weekly exercise, and diet. We then would contact the social ties they mentioned, conducting the same interview and creating a social network. As a research assistant, I assisted the members of her team in conducting these interviews. The second component of the project was to create an informational app, that would educate its users of cancer-prevention behaviors, allow users to set goals of reaching said behaviors through the app, and track their progress. In my position, I also helped in reviewing the app, as well as recruiting patients to survey the app in its earlier phases.
Another project I worked on with Dr. Aysola was her HR Policy Project (shortened title). A few years ago, she conducted a survey inviting students and employees affiliated with the University to describe either welcoming or unwelcoming experiences they have had at Penn, as well as how they would describe the climate overall. From that survey, entries that were coded as being relevant to policy were isolated. For this project, my task was to further code the 77 entries that had been isolated as being related to policy. By manual coding and then using REDCap, I coded those entries, finding 16 broad themes, with several smaller sub-themes.
I learned a lot from working under Dr. Aysola. From these two projects, I learned a lot about social network connectivity, qualitative and quantitative research, and professionalism in general. On Wednesdays, Dr. Aysola would even either give us mini-lectures herself or invite speakers to teach us about topics from statistics to social network analysis. This has really shaped what I envision my post-undergrad plans to be.