Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Bridging the gap: How purpose-driven research impacts everyday lives

Written by Lindsey Debosik, B.S. candidate in Public Health and Health Management at Saint Louis University and participant in the 2020 Institute of Public Health Summer Research Program

For the longest time, I did not understand the value of research to society or to oppressed individuals within that society. As a public health student, I get to study scientific research methods for data analysis through my coursework in epidemiology and biostatistics as well as the social justice implications for relevant health disparities. Even though I had gotten to study some of the science behind public health research, I still had not been exposed to the world of research. For example, I had no clue what a “PI” was nor had I ever heard of the ethical implications of authorship until this program.

Moreover, in my time spent living in Navajo Nation, I had the privilege of becoming close friends with several native older adults. These relationships expanded my perspective as I walked with them through some of their compounded struggles as older adults living on the reservation, such as, limited access to healthcare, isolation, and food insecurity. These injustices, along with the many I have seen whilst living in St. Louis, compel me to respond and join in the fight for health equity.

My coursework has given me an understanding of public health research methods, and my experiences serving alongside marginalized communities grew in me a passion for social justice. Yet, I did not understand how these two things could be related. Specifically, how can research tangibly impact the everyday lives of individuals from forgotten groups? My goal of participating in this research program was to be able to rectify this discourse within me on the significance of research.

I am happy to share that after participating in this Summer Research Program – Aging and Neurological Diseases Track, I now see how ethical, purpose-driven research can substantially impact the individuals it studies. Dr. Alex Wong’s, Ph.D., research in the Cognitive Rehabilitation Lab was a great example of this for me. Dr. Wong’s studies focus on “applying behavioral change techniques and mobile health approaches to optimize daily, cognitive, and mood functioning for people with neurological conditions.” His work demonstrated to me how researchers can utilize their breadth of scientific knowledge, skills, and passions to greatly impact everyday people and showcased how important and meaningful research specifically in aging is. This new insight has inspired my future studies and career plans.

Thanks to the Institute of Public Health’s Summer Research Program, I now have a clear understanding of how significant the pursuit of research can be. I am so grateful to have been able to participate in the program and to learn more about aging and neurological diseases. I hope to be able to translate what I have learned in this program to my current work as an in-home caregiver for older adults in St. Louis and continue pursing purpose-driven, ethical research in the future.