Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Getting started in the Summer Research Program

Written by Cameron Lowery, BS candidate at Harris-Stowe State University and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

As I am just getting started as a mentee in the Summer Research Program-Aging and Neurological Diseases Track, I am delighted to highlight my experience thus far into week two.

Lowery poses outside of the building housing WashU’s Occupational Therapy Program

The Performance, Environment, and Participation Lab, otherwise known as the Stark Lab (named after Principal Investigator, Susy Stark, PhD), has an ultimate vision of promoting successful aging at home via clinical and translational research. This vision is brought to life by implementing environmental interventions to enhance community participation for adults with functional limitations. Familiarizing myself with the lab’s goal and its many projects brought me to partnering with Selena Washington, PhD, who currently oversees the “Down Syndrome Supplement” study. Her study focuses on a population of 25 aging adults with high fall tendencies and attempts to correlate individuals of this population with an earlier likelihood of developing Alzheimer disease. The study is just one of many intervention studies in the lab, such as DRRP and COMPASS II, which make in-home modifications adaptable for patients with either stroke (COMPASS II) or long-term disabilities (DRRP).

I will work specifically with Professor Washington on a variety of tasks related to her current research study. These tasks will include participant recruitment, overseeing in home interventions and patient assessments related to fall risk factors. So far, fellow mentees and I have worked on training and finishing up worksheets for a systematic review study while we awaited final IRB approval. I will now be trained to take calls from patients to learn about their progression in the COMPASS II study. This relates to one of my goals for the program of learning to communicate better with patients. Apart from this, I will also aid in data analyses to find patterns in the data we collect from the DS Supplement study and possibly other studies in the lab.

Outside of direct lab work, I had the opportunity to listen in on a presentation from Occupational Therapy and meet face-to-face with the Occupational Health Department at St. Louis University. Different administrators within the department reenacted a case study as health professionals communicating about a male patient who had fallen down the stairs and was found with heroin in his system. They continued later in the week by carrying out with the study and exemplifying occupational therapy equipment he used as part of his therapy, which included tools to help put his socks on, cooking and many more tools to help with daily activities. They highlighted the importance of getting each patient back to where they’d like to be as much as possible by creating solutions to every drawback from the injury.

As you can see, my experience thus far has been incredibly diverse, and we’re only in our second week! I’ve been shown so far the many opportunities one can take part in as an Occupational Therapist, or being a member of the department in general. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned in seminar as well as my lab’s training grid i.e. Endnote, SPSS, “How to Write a Manuscript” into action now and later on. As a mentee, so far it’s been incredibly flexible since I am primarily focusing on my study, while occasionally aiding in the process of another. I look forward to keeping you all abreast of my study as I navigate throughout the program, and thank you for reading my excerpt!