Written by Harsha Bollepalli, BS sandidate at Saint Louis University, and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program
It is an honor to be a part of the 2022 Summer Research Program–Aging & Neurological Diseases Track. I have had the fantastic opportunity to learn about different occupations, researchers, and explore journal articles. In these last few weeks, I have also met with many brilliant researchers and made great, like-minded friends.
Throughout my undergraduate career, I have become interested in pursuing research and wanting research to be a part of my future life as a physician. I aimed to gain clinical experience in the brain and mental health field, which I am grateful to have found.
I am the first intern at the Center of Perioperative Mental Health at Washington University in St. Louis. In this center, there is a current feasibility study testing an intervention bundle consisting of behavioral activation and medical optimization. With the aging patient population being more prone to having surgical procedures, the study aims to reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression patients may face before or after surgery. The center employs interventionists that guide the participants through activity tracking, goal setting, and goal scheduling (behavioral activation). Studies describe that individuals who participate in the activities they enjoy are likely to help their mental health and prevent a cycle of negative feelings or thoughts. Additionally, the center focuses on pharmacological management by adjusting medications, such as increasing ineffective doses of antidepressants or decreasing amounts of medications prone to cause cognitive impairments, increase fall risk, or increase fatigue.
Fidelity assessments are essential to this study to ensure that positive results are accurate or to see if interventionists need additional training in areas of deficiency. In my role, I complete fidelity assessments where I listen to intervention sessions and ensure the reliability and validity of the intervention being given by the interventionists. There are core components of behavioral activation and medical optimization that I have assessed four interventionists on. Throughout this summer, I have learned much about clinical research and the value of perioperative mental health. I am thankful for this program, as it has further increased my passion for being a part of clinical research in the future.