HHASS Health Practicum

Health Practicum


The Health, Humanism, and Society Scholars program (HHASS) provides Rice undergraduates the opportunity to assist in research at various institutions within the Texas Medical Center, giving them valuable experience in a variety of medical and public health settings, research institutes and centers. The program identifies faculty and researchers in the Texas Medical Center who are interested in mentoring undergraduates and are currently researching topics of social science, education, and/or medical humanities. Students are matched with projects then spend a full academic year assisting with research. Students will earn 6 credits for the academic year (MDHM 402 & MDHM 403). This practicum counts toward the Medical Humanities minor. For a listing of previous projects, please click here.


2022-2023 Projects and Application

Deadline: April 17, 2022 Extended Deadline: April 22, 2022

All students taking MDHM 402 will be required to participate in an hour-long weekly meeting with Dr. Mitchell on Wednesdays, 5-6:00 PM.

Once you have been matched with a project, Dr. Mitchell will be in touch to submit the registration override so that you may register for MDHM 402.

Project Title: Religion, Spirituality, and Medicine: A Survey of Beliefs and Practices

Project Description:
Spirituality and medicine have a longstanding, and complex, history. In many ancient cultures, the distinctions between medicine, religion, and magic were blurred; today, there seems to be more clarity about how spiritual and secular understandings of health, illness, and death diverge. But even if clinical and research medicine have done away with Divine causes of illness and wellness, spirituality and religion still play a role in the decisions patients make. Approximately 80% of Americans identify themselves as belonging to a religious tradition. And, since patients often incorporate their spiritual values into their medical decisions, a good understanding of the beliefs and practices of religious traditions is becoming important for competent medical care, research, and policy. This project involves assisting the creations of an expansive analysis (in the form of a table) of the interactions between medicine and religion. This would include identifying and synthesizing relevant information, for example, a book chapter or article on the beliefs of Sunni Muslims about end-of-life care. The student would then subdivide the domain (“end of life beliefs and practices”) into a number of topics, such as, “perspectives on pain management,” “advance care planning documentation,” “determination of death” and other essential areas. The project has gone into detail on American Judaism and a bit on Sunni Islam and Catholic beliefs. The student will likely concentrate on a different religious tradition but can, likely, concentrate where they are most interested. At this time, the project may develop into a pamphlet, website, or mobile application depending on procuring funding and the Primary Investigator’s other projects. Depending on the speed of development, the HHAS Scholar may also assist with creating a grant proposal, but it is unlikely the project will develop into a finished project within the year of the Scholar’s involvement, so their involvement would be primarily on the research side with some writing compositions possible.
Institution and Location: Baylor College of Medicine, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Project timeframe: 2 semesters
Prerequisite training: Students with college-level research skills and ability to analyze religious and theological texts would be able to perform the tasks. The Scholar should also have clear written communication skills. The Scholar should be organized, detail-oriented, self-starting, punctual, and flexible on their weekly tasks. Students with an interest in religion, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, communication, or medicine are likely to find the research especially rewarding, but any student interested in the interaction of religion and medicine with college-level research and reading skills would likely fit well.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: The Scholar will likely gain a great deal of knowledge about at least one religions tradition’s perspectives on numerous areas of medicine. The student is expected to have good research skills, but they will also improve these skills by identifying important texts, scholarly articles, and books, reading these resources, and then synthesizing their salient features for the project.

Project Title: A “Land Acknowledgement” for the Texas Medical Center: History and Ethics

Project Description:
An opening statement that recognizes the prior occupants of a place, especially Indigenous peoples, is increasingly common at events in bioethics and other fields. While the motivation behind “land acknowledgements” is often articulated as a show of respect, such acknowledgements have been criticized as empty virtue signaling and may reflect no more work than consulting an app. This project would explore the history and ethical considerations relevant to a land acknowledgement for the Texas Medical Center (including Baylor College of Medicine). What tribes resided here, and what happened to them? In the more recent history of this place, were any communities wrongfully displaced? What are the ethical implications of the history of the land for the present? In sum, can a careful historical and ethical analysis lead to a land acknowledgement that is meaningful and addresses the concerns of land acknowledgement critics? Outputs would include a land acknowledgment for use by individuals affiliated with Texas Medical Center institutions, a related submission to the annual meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, and a manuscript describing the results of the research and analysis in the form of a commentary.

Institution and Location: Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine; also the McGovern Historical Center at the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library (Sandra Yates, the head librarian at the McGovern Center, has agreed to help with the historical research).

Project timeframe (2 semesters is standard, 1 semester options also): 2 semesters

Prerequisite training: Some background in history/historical research methods would be valuable but not required.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: Historical research with primary sources, ethical analysis.

Project Title: Ethics and Decision Making

Project Description: Dr. Blumenthal-Barby is working on several projects related to medical decision making and ethics. 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 (www.lvaddecisionaid.com) 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 we then worked with 10 sites to integrate it into their regular clinical flow. For the current project, we are studying the integration of a web-based “personalized risk calculator” that uses artificial intelligence/machine learning to predict individual patient outcomes, as well as the integration of a “personalized values clarification exercise.” The student could assist with various aspects of this project, which may include literature reviews and summaries, assistance in data presentation (e.g., tables, figures), assistance with tracking activities, assistance with coding and analyzing interviews, collaborative paper writing, and development of web-based resources and activities. The student would attend weekly research team meetings.

A second project involves studying ethics and decision-making related to pediatric deep brain stimulation for dystonia and OCD. We interviewed stakeholders (parents, clinicians) and are in the process of developing a decision aid to guide this difficult decision. The student could assist in various related research tasks such as literature reviews and summaries, coding interviews, collaborative paper writing, and assisting in decision aid development. There is also the opportunity for exploration of a related topic: the ethics of first-in human neuro-device trials. The student would also attend weekly research team meetings.

Finally, Dr. Blumemthal-Barby is developing a “Philosophical Bioethics Network/Hub,” which will be an active web platform for resources and content in philosophical bioethics. This is a collaborative effort with other leading Centers in philosophical bioethics. There may be opportunity for student involvement here.
Institution and Location: Baylor College of Medicine, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Prerequisite training: Interests and/or coursework related to the above topics will be prioritized. 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 these projects 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.

Project Title: Examining the Role of Narrative Medicine in the Care of Children with Complex Illness

Project Description:
Dr. Ruth and Dr. Mahoney are working on several educational initiatives with pediatric residency and fellowship trainees involving the use of narrative medicine. Narrative medicine practice confers a skill set to clinicians that strengthens their ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by the stories of their patients. This skill set has been shown to improve clinician resiliency in the face of burnout, increase clinician empathy, and improve attention to nonverbal cues.

Ongoing projects include:
1. BCM Pediatrics residency Leadership, Advocacy and Development (LEAD) track narrative medicine curriculum for advocacy and resilience

2. BCM Hospice and Palliative Medicine fellowship narrative medicine curriculum for increasing empathy in clinical practice

3. BCM Pediatric Scientist Training and Development Program narrative medicine curriculum for professional identity formation

Students will be asked to contribute to a variety of tasks involved in translating educational activities into research projects. These may include literature reviews, contributing to drafting of IRB research proposals, participation in consenting and enrolling individuals in IRB-approved projects, and (when applicable based on training and expertise) contribute to qualitative data analysis.

Institution and Location:
Texas Children’s Hospital
6621 Fannin St, W1990
Houston, TX 77030

Prerequisite training: Students with a focus in medical humanities, pre-medical studies, adult education, or scientific writing/health communication would likely find this opportunity beneficial and interesting. Students should be enthusiastic, organized, self-motivated, adaptable, professional, and have strong writing skills.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: Students will learn about the practice of narrative medicine, the process of ongoing medical education, translation of educational activities into academic scholarship, searching and summarizing both peer-reviewed medical literature and humanities literature, and potentially experience analyzing and coding qualitative data.

Project Title: Health Professions Education Evaluation Research Fellowship Program (HPEER)

Project Description:
HPEER is a national advanced fellowship funded by the Office of Academic Affiliations and the Department of Veterans Affairs to train leaders and educators in health professions education. Located at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas, the HPEER Coordinating Center (CC) was recently instituted and is comprised of program directors, local and site core faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows. A HHASS student will have the opportunity to make a significant and lasting contribution to the education and training of health professionals, like physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists, throughout the United States.

In conjunction with the HHASS program, we aim to develop a process evaluation database, website design, operational support surveys, process manuscripts, as well as reports on all surveys and process tools. Students can work on special projects and scholarship opportunities as applicable. Over the course of the program, they will learn more about the day to day operations of running a large, national health professions training program and interacting with an engaging, dynamic, and interprofessional team. They are invited to attend key all-staff and department specific meetings and encouraged to take advantage of any opportunities, to ask questions, and learn more about areas of health professions education, curriculum development, program evaluation, interprofessional health science practices, marketing and operations that are of particular interest to them.

Institution and Location:
Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety (IQuEST)
Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center 2450 Holcombe Blvd., Suite 01Y Houston, Texas 77021

Prerequisite training: Students with the following interests/experience in Health Education Curriculum, Program Evaluation, Program Operations, Communication and Marketing, Data Collection and Analysis and generating reports, might consider this project. Some basic familiarity with qualitative and quantitative methods would be helpful but is not required. Familiarity with databases (e.g., Excel, REDCap) is also a plus. Methodological training (e.g. data entry, analyzing limited qualitative data) will be provided. Experience in preparing abstracts, posters, and manuscripts is ideal. Students should be enthusiastic, organized, detail-oriented, self-motivated, adaptable, punctual, professional, willing to be flexible, adaptable, and have excellent communication skills.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: Students can gain insight into working on a national fellowship program including the buildout of a national program, website design, developing conceptual models, data reports, summaries and analysis, developing marketing materials and dissemination, literature reviews, developing posters for national conferences, and manuscript preparation. Students will gain and/or build upon skills in curriculum design, website design, administrative support, evaluation methods and frameworks as well as working with an interprofessional team. Skills in quantitative data collection include administering surveys, data entry and management and report development. Students will also assist the HPEER team in preparing abstracts, presentations and/or manuscripts based on the data collected and analyzed.

Project Title: VA Quality Scholars Fellowship Program (VAQS)

Project Description:
VA Quality Scholars Coordinating Center (CC) is located at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas. The Coordinating Center is responsible for program implementation and assessment, developing and delivering a national, core curriculum, program operations and marketing, and fostering collaboration among the fellowship sites.

Students can work on special projects and scholarship opportunities as applicable and based on interest. Over the course of the program, they will learn more about the day to day operations of running a national CC. They are encouraged to take advantage of any opportunities, to ask questions, and learn more about areas of quality improvement, program evaluation, marketing and operations that are of particular interest to them.

VAQS conducts a rigorous program evaluation using quantitative (e.g. self-reported surveys/questionnaires and existing data) and qualitative methods (self-reported descriptive data) Students will have the opportunity to gain evaluation experience by collecting and analyzing critical data as well as developing and presenting reports on all surveys and assessment tools. This project will lead in the development of reports for key stakeholders and marketing purposes as well as potential publications.

Institution and Location:
Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety (IQuEST)
Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center 2450 Holcombe Blvd., Suite 01Y Houston, Texas 77021

Prerequisite training: Students with the following interests/experience in Program Evaluation, Program Operations, Communication and Marketing, Data Collection and Analysis and generating national reports, might consider this project. Some basic familiarity with qualitative and quantitative methods would be helpful but is not required. Familiarity with databases (e.g., Excel) is also a plus. Methodological training (e.g. data entry, analyzing limited qualitative data) will be provided. Experience in preparing abstracts, posters, and manuscripts is ideal. Students should be enthusiastic, organized, detail-oriented, self-motivated, adaptable, punctual, professional, willing to be flexible, adaptable, and have excellent communication skills.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: Depending on area of interest, students can gain insight into working on a national fellowship program including multiple components of a large scale program evaluation, developing conceptual models, data reports, summaries and analysis, national conference development and planning, developing marketing materials and dissemination, literature reviews, developing posters for national conferences, and manuscript preparation. Students will gain and/or build upon skills in qualitative and quantitative methods to assist the evaluation team in better understanding the potential benefits of the fellowship education on key stakeholders. Skills in quantitative data collection include administering surveys, data entry and management and report development. Students will also have the opportunity to assist the VAQS evaluation team in preparing abstracts, presentations and/or manuscripts based on the data collected and analyzed.

Project Title: Demographic Analysis of Pediatric End-of-Life Ethics Consults

Project Description:
We are looking at the demographic breakdown by race and ethnicity of consults to the Ethics Committee at Texas Children’s Hospital that are related to withholding life sustaining therapy, and comparing them to the overall demographics of admissions to TCH. The hypothesis is that non-white and Hispanic patients are referred to the ethics committee more frequently. This builds off of a prior study of all consults made to the committee.

Institution and Location:
Texas Children’s Hospital

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain: statistical analysis, manuscript preparation, introduction to ethics

Project Title: Mental Health Research and Education

The Veterans Administration (VA) has a strong commitment to improving Veterans’ mental health while supporting mental health clinicians. The South Central Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers (SC MIRECC) focuses on promoting equity in engagement, access, and quality of mental health care for Veterans facing barriers to care, especially rural and underserved Veterans. The SC MIRECC’s mission works synergistically with the VA’s commitment to improve mental health care by developing and disseminating evidence based educational material, tools and interventions that focus on improving mental health care.

The interprofessional education team has members from Psychiatry and Social Health Psychology. The student would be involved in the development of educational materials along with their dissemination and evaluation. There are ample opportunities for students to write mentored manuscripts and poster presentations. Students can learn more about the educational efforts of the SC MIRECC by visiting the site, http://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn16/education.asp

Institution and Location:
Houston Center for Innovations in Quality, Safety, and Effectiveness (IQuEST)
2450 Holcombe Blvd,
Houston, Texas 77021

Prerequisite training:
There are no formal prerequisites; this project is open to every Rice student beyond their first year of studies. Preference will be given to students who have an interest in mental health, education, evaluation, and dissemination, are team and detail oriented, and write well. Health science, education, psychology, and communication students are especially encouraged to apply.

Knowledge and skills student can expect to gain:
This project presents an opportunity to advance the student’s skills with creation of educational materials, dissemination, evaluation, and scholarly writing. Students will also be exposed to the current mental health research.