WUHC Summer Update: Learning from Superheroes

Mounika Kanneganti, WUHC Member

San Diego, the Jersey Shore, Six Flags Great Adventure, Morris Arboretum, the Phillies. What haven’t we done in the Summer Undergraduate Minority Program (SUMR)? Mama Jo, our nickname for our program director, cares about the cohesiveness of our group as much as our individual well-being. Over the past two months, my cohort has fostered a great sense of community and support so that those who are new to Penn’s campus begin to love it as much as all the Penn students do. Spending the summer at Penn has let me appreciate the resources and mentors it has to offer more than ever.

I learned a lot about my mentors in the past month. If my mentors were superheroes in disguise (fingers still crossed), Dr. Polsky would definitely be Iron Man and Dr. Doubeni would be Batman (he already dons the Invisible Cape 3.0). Both of them are jacks of many trades and have so many tools up their sleeves. They both know how to communicate professionally, collaborate with many people, and use their expertise when it is most effecient to. Dr. Polsky can use his skill set for health economics for a much wider range of medical issues, while Dr. Doubeni uses his clinical epidemiology skills to focus on colorectal cancer screening and asks questions that branch off his previous work in that area.

So, what has my role as a sidekick been so far? With my Health Insurance Marketplace Premiums Variation project, I have turned to focus on how premiums vary across metro and nonmetro counties. I have become best friends with STATA and done descriptive statistics on a dataset with information on all the silver plans on the health insurance exchanges. The challenges for that project have been narrowing what we want our data brief to focus on, agreeing on how we want to define urbanicity, and displaying trends in an easily identifiable way. My interesting takeaway for this project is if you are writing a policy brief always keep in mind how it is relevant to the current atmosphere on that issue.

With the Pilot Colorectal Cancer Screening project, so far I have made some tools to use for the mailed outreach program. My latest gadget is a questionnaire to ask our patient sample about their experience with colon cancer screening and validate whether they have had a colonoscopy. My next step is to use the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Abstraction Form I made to do an EHR review. Being involved in a pilot project is really cool because we are at the stage where we don’t need to have everything right yet, and can figure out how to improve our processes by testing our tools. My favorite part of this project so far is the back-and-forth feedback I get from my mentor about the work I do so that I can keep improving it. Don’t be scared to ask your boss detailed questions when it directly impacts their work; to get to that position they had to be humble and they want to know that their interns care about their work.