Reflection on a Year of Research and Professional Experience

By Adeima Ibanga, BS
3rd Medical Student-Cooper University Medical School-Rowan University

My independent study year has been a remarkably enriching experience. It has allowed me to not only grow as an individual, but it has also provided me with many great research opportunities that I may not have been able to take advantage of at any other time in my medical journey.

One of the research projects that I was involved in was a funded pilot study with Inspira and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation for the Fresh Food Rx Program where I worked under the guidance of Dr. Nicole Vaughn at Rowan University in Glassboro in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. The main purpose of this study was to examine whether interventions targeting both diabetes self-management skills and food insecurity improve glycemic control among diabetic patients in a low-income rural community. I was responsible for weekly data collection, data analysis, collaboration with dieticians and diabetes educators, as well as partnering with local food markets, and facilitating 2 instructional sessions on diabetes management and prevention education. Having the opportunity to work first-hand with the participants gave me the opportunity to educate and also provide each individual with practical methods to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors that would help them successfully manage their diabetes. 

I was also involved in research at Cooper University Health Care. In this project we examined the impact that a text messaging intervention program has on appointment adherence for pregnant women with or at risk of developing diabetes and/or hypertension. I was responsible for recruiting pregnant patients at the clinic, facilitating communication between health coaches and the research team, reviewing patient charts, data collection, coordinating regular team meetings, and assisting with data analysis with the biostatistician, Krystal Hunter, MS. This particular project was a study that I originally began with the guidance of my mentors, Dr. Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams and Dr. Nicole Vaughn, during my first year of medical school.  Our goal for this project was to reduce the number of missed doctor’s appointments and improve health knowledge in order to assist in the management of chronic disease among pregnant women within communities that are disadvantaged and underserved. Having this independent study year allowed me to devote an adequate amount of time and resources needed to contribute to the growth of this project.

In addition to working on these projects during my independent research year, I had the privilege of serving as an Undergraduate Research Program Coordinator and Mentor with Dr. Vaughn’s lab. This position allowed me to serve as a guide and mentor six undergraduate students aspiring to pursue careers in community health, medical education and the health professions. During my time as a research program coordinator, I confirmed all CITI human subjects certification for all students in the lab, facilitated training sessions that introduced the students to the use of EPIC electronic medical record system and SPSS statistical software package.  

All of the students in the Vaughn research lab applied and received acceptance to present their individual research projects at the New Jersey Society for Public Health Education annual conference at Rutgers University in December 2018. I also had the opportunity of supporting all of the lab students in preparation for their poster presentation and guide them through the process. Taking on the role as a mentor has taught me the importance of leadership and becoming a role model for young adults who aspire to start their own journeys in the medical and health professions field.

Finally, the lessons I have acquired this year pertaining to the importance of leadership, behavioral medicine, community health and outreach has been invaluable. I not only became actively involved in these research projects, but also had the opportunity to represent my research team by presenting a poster at the NJ Society for Public Health Education conference at Rutgers University.  I also presented my research at a national meeting --the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in March 2019. As I continue on my own journey in medicine, I look forward to carrying on the lessons that I have acquired through participating in research this past year and applying them within the hospital setting as I interact with patients and other medical professionals.