Clinical Research Track Experiences: Katrina Christopher, MSOT/S ‘16

Katrina Christopher, MSOT/S ‘16
Clinical Research Track: Health and Disability Research Laboratory

Why did you choose WUOT for your occupational therapy education?

I chose WUOT for my occupational therapy education because it is a top tier program with a well-developed curriculum, an extraordinarily supportive faculty, active student involvement in research, and ample additional opportunities for professional and personal growth.

Why did you choose the clinical research track option for your degree?

I chose the clinical research track option to gain a deeper understanding of the research required for treatments and assessments to be evidence-based.  In addition, it will give me a better knowledge of occupational therapists in academia that will assist me if I choose to pursue teaching or research later on in my career.

Briefly describe the research lab you chose.

The Health and Disability Research Laboratory is a lab that frequently uses interdisciplinary approaches to look at psychosocial and neurocognitive determinants of health in a variety of populations in order to develop assessments and interventions.

What project/s are you involved with in your lab?

I have been heavily involved in two primary projects and assisted on another lab member’s project. The first primary project is modifying the Cancer Survivorship Profile (CSPro) assessment for adolescent and young adult survivors of cancers such that population specific concerns are assessed when developing survivorship care plans. The CSPro project has given me experience in performing a qualitative scope review, the opportunity to train and supervise a research team in qualitative data analysis, and a more detailed understanding of adolescent and young adult cancer survivors experiences.

The second primary project is identifying stakeholder perceptions of facilitators and barriers to patient engagement in inpatient rehabilitation. This grant-funded project is led by Dr. Alex Wong in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). This project has allowed me to be mentored and trained in grounded theory by Dr. Christina Papadimitriou, work with professional researchers at RIC, and experience the realities of grant-funded research. Analyzing the data from this project has given me valuable insight into the perspectives of other clinicians, patients, administrators and policymakers regarding what may be done in order to help increase a patient’s engagement.

How does the clinical research experience contribute (beyond the rest of the set curriculum) to your overall skill and preparation as a generalist practitioner?

The clinical research experience has contributed to my skills and preparation in two major ways.  First, I have a much greater understanding of the populations I have researched for literature searches. Second, I have a richer understanding of research (particularly qualitative), which is crucial for effectively utilizing evidence-based practice as a general practitioner.

What kind of guidance is provided by your faculty mentor?

Dr. Alex Wong is one of a kind. I like to call him a research rockstar. He is invested in his students exploring unique opportunities that will help us grow professionally. While invested, he makes sure that decisions we are making as a student are a good fit for us and will help by outlining career paths in depth, being flexible when your career goals change, and putting you in contact with other potential mentors (he is a networking pro). On top of all these wonderful qualities, he is very approachable, will get back to you with feedback and answers to questions promptly, and has an enthusiasm for research that is contagious.

How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in clinical research?

This is an ideal experience for individuals who are at all interested in pursuing a research path, anyone who loves research, or individuals who are interested in interdisciplinary endeavors.

How will this clinical research experience contribute to your career?

My clinical research experience will help open different career track options for me. I have developed a love of clinical research and am contemplating pursuing a PhD in order to continue this work. In addition, I have made connections with many people outside of WashU that will assist me in finding a career as a general practitioner if that is the path I choose to pursue.


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