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Graduate Students, Community Health System Collaborate on Research Published in Prestigious Public Health Journal

Candidates in the Master of Public Health and Master of Healthcare Administration programs worked with Yale New Haven Health to study social determinants of health, and their findings were published in Frontiers of Public Health.

June 13, 2024

By Alisha Thapa ’24 MPH, Dawa Lhomu Sherpa ’23 MPH, Keerthi Katukuri ’24 MHA, Hiba Mohammed Jaidi ’24 MHA, Kashyap Ramadyani ’24 MHA, and Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH

Alisha Thapa ’24 MPH, Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH, and Keerthi Katukuri ’24 MHA (left to right).
Alisha Thapa ’24 MPH, Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH, and Keerthi Katukuri ’24 MHA (left to right).

Representing the Department of Population Health and Leadership in the School of Health Sciences, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Yale New Haven Health (YNHH) to publish the results of a months-long systematic review project in Frontiers in Public Health.

Entitled the project began with a 2023 University of New Haven Summer Research Grant awarded to Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH, professor of healthcare administration and public health.

As part of the project, we collaborated with Lewis Goodrum, FACHE, associate director of regional practice operations for Yale New Haven Health. We represented two major disciplines: public health (MPH) and healthcare administration (MHA). Our approach enabled the integration of three high-impact practices: faculty-mentored research, interdisciplinary learning, and community engagement into one project.

Working with Dr. Pavani, we were able to leverage the experience of working on a faculty-mentored research project to fulfill our curricular internship requirement in summer 2023, and all five of us as graduate students remained committed to supporting the project for nearly six months after the completion of our summer internship period.

Over the nine-month project period, many research challenges were overcome and milestones achieved, including a comprehensive search of three academic databases; article selection based on predetermined eligibility criteria and critical appraisal criteria; data collection based on research questions; data analysis; and the write-up of initial manuscript.

‘This work adds significant value’

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) refer to “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” Nonprofit hospitals and health systems have historically invested little in addressing SDOH, however recent policy changes and environmental influences have accelerated healthcare’s attention to SDOH. This project makes an original and timely contribution in identifying the key characteristics of existing hospital and health system initiatives to address SDOH in the U.S. to gain insight into progress and gaps, and to identify implications for practice, policy, and research.

“I’m so excited to see the vision come to life,” added Mr. Goodrum, Associate Director for Practice Operations at YNHH. "This work adds significant value to the field.”

Below the students and their adviser reflect on their experiences.

Alisha Thapa ’24 MPH

The moment we have been waiting for is finally here. Working on this project has been very rewarding both academically and professionally. Every phase of this research has been a journey of growth and learning. It's been an honor collaborating with the team, navigating challenges, and celebrating the milestones together! I'm incredibly proud of our achievement.

Dawa Lhomu MPH ’23

As I reflect on our research journey together, I feel humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to work on such an important topic as SDOH. This research is a big milestone and a great reference point to plan and implement specialized initiatives in the future. Thank you so much to Dr. Rangachari for your guidance and understanding throughout this journey. I look forward to creating a bigger impact together in future as well.

Keerthi Katukuri ’24 MHA

I am deeply grateful to my adviser Dr. Pavani Rangachari for granting me this exceptional internship opportunity, and I extend my thanks to the University librarians and other members who have offered their unwavering support for our research project. This journey has been transformational, providing me with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make a meaningful impact in the field of public health.

Hiba Jaidi MHA ’24

This research is very impactful. Through our collective efforts, we have enriched the understanding of how hospitals are actively engaging with social determinants of health, which is an increasingly vital aspect of healthcare delivery. By identifying and analyzing the various interventions implemented across the United States, our research serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and healthcare professionals seeking to address health disparities at their roots. I am immensely proud to be part of a project that holds such significance in the realm of healthcare. It has been an enriching journey, honing my research skills and understanding the importance of addressing social determinants of health to create a more equitable healthcare landscape.

Kashyap Ramadyani ’24 MHA

I'm thankful for this fantastic learning opportunity and for the opportunity to work with a group of people who are passionate about changing the face of healthcare. I have improved my research and analytical abilities via this experience, and I have gained a deeper appreciation for the critical role of social determinants of health in creating a better and more just society. This effort has the potential to spark big changes in healthcare systems across the nation, and it is more than just a theoretical exercise. Healthcare professionals can execute focused interventions and better allocate resources if they have an awareness of the nuances of socioeconomic factors and how they affect health outcomes. We hope that our efforts will serve as a first step in encouraging teamwork across healthcare organizations, researchers, and communities. I feel privileged to have contributed to this outstanding initiative under the direction of Dr. Rangachari, and I eagerly anticipate seeing the great changes it can potentially bring throughout the healthcare industry and beyond.

Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH

It is delightful to see our hard work over so many months come to fruition with an impactful publication in a prestigious public health journal I am especially grateful for three opportunities provided by the project: 1) The opportunity to address a gap in research in an area of critical importance at the intersection of healthcare administration and public health, 2) the opportunity to engage graduate students and contribute to their professional development, and 3) the opportunity to engage community partners in our research. In addition to having a community partner as co-author, this project has provided an opportunity to engage with health equity leaders in the community in both disseminating our findings and identifying future avenues for collaboration. I am grateful to the community leaders who have already taken the time to meet with me in this regard.

The Graduate students and Dr. Rangachari.
The Graduate students and Dr. Rangachari.
‘Hopeful that this work will provide a foundation’

Prior to having our work published in Frontiers in Public Health, we used a multi-pronged approach to local and regional dissemination of the results, beginning with the presentation of posters at the 2024 UNewHaven Graduate Showcase and the 2024 Connecticut Public Health NextGen Workforce Showcase in New Britain, CT, in April. At the latter event, as students, we had an opportunity present the results one-on-one to Dr. Manisha Juthani, CT Public Health Commissioner, who greatly appreciated our presentation and later left a note of appreciation for us on LinkedIn.

In addition to our local and regional presentations, as part of the SHS Research Seminar Series in Spring 2024, Dr. Rangachari presented the results of the study to the broader faculty body in the School of Health Sciences, while Alisha and Keerthi served as guest speakers to present the results to a class on Healthcare Leadership (PUBH 6640). This student-led guest lecture, in turn, provided an opportunity for current MPH/MHA students to serve as guest lecturers to their peers, while lecturing on a topic directly relevant to the course theme on healthcare leadership. Moreover, since this course required students to complete a scoping review for their term paper, the presentation was timely in imparting reflections and lessons learned from our real-world (internship) experience to peers.

In addition to having our work published in an international peer-reviewed journal, we will have an opportunity to present a poster this fall at the 151st Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) to be held in Minneapolis in October 2024.

In addition to the opportunity to disseminate the results at the local, national, and international levels, we are hopeful that this work will provide a foundation for original future research targeted toward the reduction of healthcare disparities and promotion of health equity.

Alisha Thapa ’24 MPH and Dawa Lhomu Sherpa ’23 MPH are graduates of the University’s Master of Public Health program. Keerthi Katukuri ’24 MHA, Hiba Mohammed Jaidi ’24 MHA, and Kashyap Ramadyani ’24 MHA are graduates of the University’s Master of Healthcare Administration Program. Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., CPH, is a professor of healthcare administration and public health.