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Exploring Psychiatry through Summer Research: Lance Reidenbach

As a second-year College of Medicine student, how do you choose a specialty when you’re torn between family medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics?

Lance Reidenbach, a Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine Class of 2023 student, discovered new insights into the field of psychiatry from a Summer Research Fellowship Program opportunity with two NEOMED researchers.

Reidenbach spent the summer collaborating with Natalie Bonfine, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry, and Christian Ritter, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and director of the community-based mental health research area at NEOMED. The research project was two-pronged.

Conducting his research

The first step in his project was to assist Drs. Bonfine and Ritter with compiling a background and literature review for their future publication of research to an academic journal. From there, Reidenbach was able to develop his own research question for NEOMED’s Summer Research Fellowship Program, a mentored research program for NEOMED’s medicine and pharmacy students.

Using his mentors’ data set, Reidenbach posed and examined the question: Should subjective social status be considered a social determinant of health?

His goal was to better understand if subjective social status (a perception of where one fits relative to others) was related to social determinants of health – considerations such as socioeconomic status, income, education level, Medicaid access and so on. In his research Reidenbach also compared subjective social status with health outcomes by using BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure and overall physical health as health indicators.

“As it turns out, those who have a better perception of their social standing (higher perceived social status) are more likely to have better overall physical health and lower BMI. What was interesting is that there really wasn’t a lot of correlation between the objective socioeconomic status indicators or sociodemographic characteristics, such as age, gender or race, and other predictors of health and subjective social status.

“The only correlation that I found that was related was the patient’s psychiatric diagnosis status — having a diagnosis of “other,” compared to schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression, was associated with subjective social status, meaning that there weren’t really many differences among people with three common serious mental disorders in their subjective social status. Otherwise, none of the other predictors were significantly correlated with subjective social status.

“So, it begs the question, when we’re doing these public health approach analyses and looking at social determinants of health, we might have to start considering that how a person views themselves in relation to others might be impacting some of their health outcomes and ultimately, prognosis.

“The impact this could have is in our approach to patients. Not only addressing their immediate presenting needs and preventing future issues but working with them to help change the way they may perceive themselves (if negative) and their situations. Helping patients have a more positive perception of themselves could have positive impacts on their health outcomes,” says Reidenbach.

Looking to the future

Reidenbach earned a master’s degree in public health from Cleveland State University while preparing to matriculate to NEOMED through its Urban Health Pathway. Regardless of the area of medicine he ultimately chooses as his specialty, his ultimate goal is to serve in an urban community with struggles like the ones he studied this summer.

Reflecting on his summer experience, Reidenbach shares, “I greatly appreciated working with Dr. Bonfine and Dr. Ritter. And while my master’s in public health gave me a background in statistics in, it was a nice refresher to get back into SPSS [Statistical Package for the Social Sciences] and get into the data itself. I really enjoyed it.”

Reidenbach plans to present his research during NEOMED’s Student Research Showcase to be held Friday, Nov. 20, from 2-6 p.m. on Zoom. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the showcase consisted of students gathered for an event at which visitors could stop by to look (and hear about) individual students’ poster presentations and talk about with the students about their work.

This year, each student will record their video presentation in advance of the showcase. Guests will have the option of watching individual research presentations prior to the event, and they will be able to talk (via Zoom) with the students during the showcase itself.