Research

In January 2018 Columbia-Bassett established a research program. The program provides opportunities for the Columbia-Bassett students to participate in research in the thematic areas of their curriculum, including the social determinants of health and developmental trauma and adversity. These research opportunities are primarily in the summer following the first year of the pre-clinical phase of the curriculum, and in the scholarly project program in the differentiation and integration phase of the curriculum. However, throughout the four years of medical school, contact is encouraged and supported between the students and the research program.

The Columbia-Bassett research program is directed by Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH. He is assisted by Allison N. Herman, M.Ed., MPH, the program’s coordinator and Tracy Dearth-Wesley, PhD, MPH, the program’s epidemiologist and statistician. The program develops empirical evidence to support a conceptual framework of health as “flourishing with adversity”—attaining self-acceptance and a sense of purpose in the face of, and sometimes as a result of, adverse life experiences. We are evaluating the social and biologic factors that influence the development of flourishing over the life-course and across generations. Our immediate focus is on understanding how best to provide healthcare, education, and human services that are responsive to emotional traumas and enhance the capacity for flourishing in the context of such adversity. Active projects include an evaluation of a professional development course to increase trauma-informed care among early childhood educators; a survey that examines how young adults with type 1 diabetes flourish in the context of chronic disease; and a national study to assess factors associated with flourishing among US children who have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences and economic disadvantage.

The research program is closely integrated with the Life Experiences Curriculum. The research mentorship provided to students is philosophically aligned with the emphasis at Columbia-Bassett on supporting growth and self-awareness through a longitudinal mentoring relationship. This relationship involves inquiry and dialogue with students, both of which are integral parts of scholarship. The research program also informs ongoing curriculum development by evaluating the current science on how emotional trauma, social forces, and the healthcare system influence health and well-being.