News & Stories

Finding a Path Through COVID-19 Disruptions: Hebah Hussain

When COVID-19 disrupted one medicine student’s plans for a clinical experience last summer, she found a rewarding research experience instead. Over the summer of 2020, Hebah Hussain, M.P.H., worked with her classmate Harini Prabhakaran (also a second-year College of Medicine student) on a project under the mentorship of Amy Lee, M.D., M.P.H., professor of family and community medicine and the program director for the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program.

Their research was honored by the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin of Northern Ohio (AIPNO), receiving a second-place award in the category of Quality Improvement at the 37th annual AIPNO Gala, held virtually Dec. 5. 

Hebah Hussain reflects here on her research experience at NEOMED. 

As a medical student, you are always looking for new opportunities that can help you learn more about the field, give you more exposure to the community and its health needs, and allow you to work with more experienced individuals who can teach you valuable lessons. With all those  things in mind, having a summer experience between my M1 and M2 years was something I was really looking forward to. I  initially had  plans relating more to direct patient care and clinical experience for the summer, but due to COVID-19 I was not able to pursue them. I thought I would not get a chance to do anything over the summer, but NEOMED is full of opportunities for pretty much any field of interest – all  you have to do is send a quick email! 

I reached out to Dr. Steven Schmidt [vice president for research] and Dr. Jeff Wenstrup [professor and chair of anatomy and neurobiology] to ask if they knew of any research projects I could potentially join. Because of my Master of Public Health background, Dr. Schmidt advised me to contact Dr. Amy Lee, the program director for the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program. Since I completed my M.P.H. degree through this program, I had already gotten to know Dr. Lee. Having the opportunity to work on a project with her was amazing! This is where my summer research journey began. 

Dr. Lee had started a project, and through the NEOMED Summer Research Fellowship Program, I was able to join her team. I met so many wonderful people through this and got to learn so much more about the interprofessional teamwork and healthcare related community engagement. Harini Prabhakaran, a fellow second-year medicine student, was also on this team, and with Dr. Lee’s guidance, we were able to start a new quality improvement project that branched off of the team’s original project. 

Our project was an evaluation of the use of boosted Facebook surveys in Northeast Ohio older adults. We wanted to determine if using Facebook was a useful form of collecting community assessment data for older Northeast Ohio county residents, and if we could generate better response rates by using a boosted survey. I should explain: A boosted survey on Facebook is a paid poll that is purposely intended to reach a wider, more targeted audience. 

We worked with two Ohio county health departments. Over three weeks, Lake County General Health District’s staff paid $50 per week to boost a three-question survey on its Facebook page, and the same questions were posted with no boosting on the Stark County Health Department Facebook page. After three weeks, we saw Lake County’s boosted survey had higher participation rates than Stark County’s non-boosted survey, both overall and in the target population of 65 years and above. In addition, more than half of each county’s respondents stated that Facebook surveys are a good way to ask them questions.

We decided to submit our abstract to the AIPNO Research Showcase as an opportunity to get our work out, and to learn about the different topics and kinds of projects that our peers from different institutions were working on. Luckily, our abstract was accepted, and we got a chance to present the poster that we made! We were already so happy just after presenting our project, and then to find out that we won second place for our quality improvement project was one of the best experiences ever! I am so blessed to be a student at NEOMED, where I have professors and advisors who will help me reach and surpass my goals and where I have peers who are there to support and encourage one another on our paths to success!