Project Sponsor(s): Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby PhD, MA
Project Title: The Psychology and Ethics of Medical Decision Making
Project Description: Dr. Blumenthal-Barby is working on several projects related to medical decision making. The student(s) selected to work on this research team may participate in helping with any one or several of these projects depending on need and timing.
One project involves studying the use of a “decision aid” (DA) to help improve decision making about placement of a ventricular assist device (“LVAD”) among end stage heart failure patients. We developed a DA and conducted a randomized trial of the DA vs. standard education and found that the DA improved patient knowledge and that both patients and clinicians viewed the DA favorably and would like to integrate it into their clinical flow. We will a.) continue to analyze the survey and interview data from this project and write up results, and (if we receive further funding), b.) work to disseminate this DA to cardiology programs and social media sites across the U.S. and assist with, encourage, and study its use. The student could assist with various aspects of these efforts which may include literature reviews, assistance in data presentation (e.g., tables, figures), assistance with tracking activities, and assistance with patient outreach (identifying patient social media sites and promotion of the DA on those sites).
A second project involves studying the ethics of influencing or “nudging” patients’ decision-making in various contexts using tools from the psychology of judgment and decision making and behavioral economics. Dr. Blumenthal-Barby has researched this question in the contexts of psychiatry, prostate cancer, pediatrics, critical care, global health, and contraception. The next area of focus is TBD! She is also working on a book on this topic. Students may be asked to assist in various related research tasks such as literature reviews and summaries and attending monthly research team meetings to brainstorm projects.
A third project involves work on the role of hope and unrealistic optimism in medical decision making. This project would involve analyzing existing quantitative and qualitative data from LVAD patients who hope for a heart, family members of patients in a minimally conscious state who hope for recovery or progress, and HIV positive patients who hope for a cure.
Institution and Location: Baylor College of Medicine, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy
Eligibility for international students?: Yes
Expectations of student:
- The student must devote 10 hours per week to the project (consistent with a 3-credit course) and will develop a timeline of activities in collaboration with supervisor(s). The student will meet at least monthly with the faculty supervisor(s) to evaluate progress. The student will attend relevant research team meetings as requested (may occur weekly depending on project).
Prerequisite training: Students with the following interests/experience might consider this project, although anyone interested in medical decision making would be a reasonable ﬁt: psychology or social science majors (cognitive psychology), communication (health communication), or philosophy (applied). Students should be enthusiastic, organized, detail-oriented, self-motivated, adaptable, punctual, professional, willing to be flexible and adaptable (some research tasks are more fun than others, and this project involves a mix of research streams), and have excellent writing skills.
Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: Insight into how research teams function, how research ideas are generated and executed, the day to day work of research and translation of research results into practice, searching and summarizing literature, knowledge about medical decision making/psychology/ethics, potentially experience analyzing and coding qualitative data, networking opportunities.