Sid Ganesh remembers the exact moment she stumbled upon the UC Davis Emergency Medicine Research Associate Program. As a freshman, she’d just finished a class and found herself late to an internship and career fair on campus. At the fair, Ganesh hurried from table to table, collecting flyers for each program and opportunity. She then saw the EMRAP display.
“It said ‘emergency medicine,’ and trauma and acute care barely exists where I’m from,” said Ganesh, an international student from Bombay, India “I wanted to understand emergency care and how it could be improved and applied internationally, starting with the backbone of the ER, which is triage.”
Recognizing an opportunity to learn more, Ganesh knew she had to apply to the program.
Today, Ganesh, a junior majoring in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, is EMRAP’s chief research associate. She coordinates emergency room studies, recruits new undergrads and ensures that the roughly 95 undergraduates involved in EMRAP are trained and ready for their shifts at the UC Davis Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
“EMRAP research associates are all remarkably passionate individuals, whether it’s about emergency medicine, research or all the variety paths they want to take within and outside of healthcare,” said Ganesh. “EMRAP is an extraordinary opportunity especially because there are mentors everywhere in the emergency department.”
Emergency medicine, up close
According to UC Davis Health, the emergency department serves approximately 80,000 patients each year. Since 2000, EMRAP students have assisted and supported the department’s clinical research, learning emergency department lingo and aiding in patient data collection efforts.
“The hope is that they get insight into the emergency department, emergency care and clinical research,” said Daniel Nishijima, EMRAP’s director and an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. “I am always hopeful that the EMRAP experience will possibly plant the seed of scientific inquiry and clinical research in young students that may blossom someday into a career path.”
While EMRAP students don’t provide direct treatment to patients, they provide helpful support, pulling relevant information from a patient’s medical record, consenting patients for clinical studies and running resuscitation simulations. The students are also trained in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act best practices.
Sophomore Joanne Newens, also a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, recalled how overwhelmed she felt experiencing the high-stakes emergency department environment for the first time.
“We learned about a couple of the studies we had to screen for and they gave me these big words, like atherosclerosis, which I had never heard before,” Newens said.
Fortunately, new research associates are supervised during their initial shifts by seasoned EMRAP students, who ensure they learn the necessary skills to thrive in a fast-paced environment.
“They were in my shoes once too, so they took me step-by-step through how to get used to the emergency room,” said Newens.
Developing clinical research experience
Part of the draw of joining EMRAP is the chance to conduct clinical research that has the potential to improve patient care and influence how emergency departments operate. While some students assist principal investigators with their studies, others lead their own research.
Last year, Ganesh had such an opportunity, working with Professor John Richards, Department of Emergency Medicine, and second year emergency medicine resident Amar Tomar.
“It’s called the transportation study,” said Ganesh. “We found that there is currently no research that focuses on new mediums of transportation, specifically application based ride share services, like Uber and Lyft, and their role in safe transport of emergency department patients back home."
People are transported to emergency departments in different ways, like being dropped off by a friend or driven by an ambulance. But after getting treated, how do these patients return home? And are they satisfied with their options? Ganesh wanted to find answers.
She controlled many aspects of the resulting study, from modifying survey questions to data collection and distillation. According to the study, which surveyed 500 discharged patients, roughly 50 percent felt their medical insurance should arrange and pay for their transportation home. Around 31 percent felt the emergency department should be responsible for their transportation.
One year later, Ganesh presented her findings at the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference.
“It was an incredible opportunity to go through every aspect of this study because of the guidance and encouragement of my mentors,” said Ganesh. “It’s an enriching process to be a part of because when you’re enrolling patients, the data is so far away. When you finally analyze the data and you see it all come to life and fall into place, it shows you how every step is critical to the final piece even if you cannot see the whole picture as it’s forming.”
For more information about EMRAP, go to UC Davis Health. Fall applications for UC Davis students (including freshman and transfers students) interested in joining EMRAP will open in August. For questions, contact Sid Ganesh at EMRAPChiefRA@gmail.com