Gaining new perspectives through research

Each summer, a number of our students immerse themselves in research with funding support from the Southern Medical Program (SMP), The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation, and the Faculty of Medicine’s Summer Student Research Program.

Allyson Marshall, second-year Southern Medical Program student

Alysson Hamilton, second-year Southern Medical Program student

We connected with Alysson Hamilton, second-year SMP student to discuss her research experience from this past summer. Hamilton worked alongside Dr. Mary Jung, Associate Professor with the UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development on a project titled Small Steps for Big Changes in the Community.

Describe your research project:
Small Steps for Big Changes is an exercise and diet intervention for individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. I was involved with various aspects of the project including telephone screening and baseline testing of participants, adapting motivational interviewing materials to be used in counseling sessions, and transcribing qualitative interviews about the experiences and perspectives of individuals with prediabetes.

Why were you interested in working on this project?
I am very interested in preventative medicine and the power of a healthy lifestyle, and I wanted to learn techniques to promote positive behaviour change.

What’s one thing that surprised you about the research?
I was surprised by how much I have enjoyed being involved in research. Coming into this project as part of the FLEX (Flexible and Enhance Learning) course, I had no idea what to expect as I had no research involvement prior to medical school. I have loved working with this team and learning about different aspects of the research process.

How will this research experience help you in your future medical studies?
The communication skills and behaviour change techniques that I have learned will be helpful in future patient encounters. This experience has also provided me with a deeper understanding of different types of research and the research process which should allow me to better analyze relevant medical literature as I continue through my studies.

How has it influenced your perspective on medicine and patient care?
From speaking to participants and listening to qualitative interviews, I have gained more insight into the difficulties of making behavioural changes and the unique challenges and strengths of each individual. This has motivated me to be more than a physician who says “go exercise” and instead to work with patients to determine what lifestyle changes they want to make and how those changes can be incorporated into their lives.