Research Projects

Association between daily changes in financial strain and health and its interaction with aging 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stephanie Cook | Graduate Student Mentor: Erica Wood

Students will learn how to manage and conduct basic descriptive statistics utilizing a publicly available data source that is informative about finances, health and aging. Students will learn how to interpret data on the impact of financial strain on health and health behaviors of individuals in midlife.

This research will utilize data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. The MIDUS study is a longitudinal study examining how mental and physical health changes across the adulthood period (i.e., ages 25-74). For the purposes of this project, we will use cross-sectional data to examine how self-reported general health and age impacts mental health among adults living in the United States. We will perform descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing to understand this association using the MIDUS dataset. Duties of the PQAR students include, but are not limited to, data management and cleaning, descriptive statistics, and hypothesis testing. 

PQAR Students: Amir ElTabekh, Kristiana Jeffers, Romy Robielos II

Religiosity and Symptom Management during Cancer Survivorship in Minority Elderly. (Research Supplement for Underrepresented Minorities)

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karyn Faber | Graduate Student Mentor: Manuel Vazquez Sanchez/ Jing Xu

The concept of religiosity has not been extensively investigated in older minority cancer survivors, although current literature suggests an association between cancer symptom management and religiosity. Cultural values that emphasize stoicism, machismo, and endurance as an attribute, and suffering as a spiritual virtue/expectation may act as barriers to effective pain control and symptom management (Ward, Goldberg, Miller-McCauley, et al., 1993). Anderson et al (2002) found that prayer was frequently used by 83% of African American cancer patients and 47% of Hispanic cancer patients to address pain. In another investigation of Hispanic cancer patients, relaxation/prayer was described as an alternative to pain medication. Crawley et al. (2000) have noted that many African Americans maintain the religious view that pain and suffering is something to be endured as part of a spiritual commitment. Attention to culturally sanctioned approaches to treating illness episodes illustrates the importance of cultural sensitivity in health care delivery plans.

This research aims to (1) explore religiosity and quality of life during cancer survivorship; (2) enhance understanding of the contribution of dimensions of religiosity to quality of life outcomes in elderly minority cancer survivors; and (3) inform future interventions to promote health-related quality of life among minority elders, thus reducing health disparities. The following measure will be added to the patient and caregiver assessment battery: Religiosity: assessed with the 10-item Intrinsic Religious Motivation Scale (IRM) (Hoge, 1972) which is based on the distinction drawn by Allport and Ross (1967) between "extrinsic" and "intrinsic" religious orientation. While "extrinsics" are individuals who are religious because of benefits that accrue to them from being religious (e.g. security and solace, sociability, status in the community), "intrinsics" are described as individuals who seek to internalize their religious beliefs, make those beliefs a central aspect of their lives, and live out those beliefs in their lives. The IRM contains statements relating to the motivations for one's religious faith. Participants indicate their degree of agreement/disagreement with each item on a 4-point Likert scale and these responses are then added together to yield a total score. The lower the score, the more an intrinsic orientation toward religion. Conversely, the higher the score, the more an extrinsic orientation toward religion.

PQAR Students: Antonio Cruz de la Cruz, Bintou Koroma, Abner Portillo

Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on NYC Transit Workers: A Pilot Study 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alexis Merdjanoff | Graduate Student Mentor: Gabriella Meltzer

In March, 2020, New York City (NYC) transit workers were suddenly thrust into the role of essential workers by continuing to report to work as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. These employees provided a “pandemic lifeline” to NYC, making it possible for thousands of other essential workers to continue to commute, thereby enabling the city to keep functioning. While the full impact of this commitment on transit workers’ health and wellbeing is still unfolding, we know that this workforce, the largest in the US, with over 70K employees, experienced high rates of infection (15% reported in May, double the general population), high rates of hospitalizations, quarantine or home isolation of workers (>10K), and a large number of deaths, with 135 recorded MTA worker deaths as of January, 2021. Furthermore, throughout this ordeal, many frontline transit workers experienced verbal abuse and physical assault by riders over mask use, and others reported on-the-job stigmatization related to their race and ethnicity. At the same time, many transit workers mourned the loss of family members, friends, and co-workers.

To better understand the impact of the pandemic on this intensely affected workforce, we conducted a pilot study of TWU members in August, 2020. Working in close collaboration with the leadership of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, we collected survey data from 645 TWU members. The demographics of our sample closely matched that of the TWU Local 100 membership in terms of gender (predominantly male), race and ethnicity (predominantly Black and Hispanic), and age (average 51 years).

PQAR Students: Jordan Harris, Michelle Hefner, Paula Lanternier

Evaluation of how social determinants of health and access to health care services are related to hospitalizations and emergency department visits over time 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jose Pagán | Graduate Student Mentor:  Vivian Wang

Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a longitudinal panel study of about 20,000 adults funded by NIA and the Social Security Administration will be analyzed using statistical/econometric methods to evaluate how factors such as social determinants of health and access to health care services are related to hospitalizations and emergency department visits over time. The proposed analysis will take into account differences in outcomes (risk of hospitalizations and emergency department visits) by health insurance coverage status, clinically-relevant dyads and triads of chronic health conditions, ethnicity and race.

PQAR Students: Joe Bales, Alma Rincongallardo, Andrea Rodas