Matt Schorr
February 27, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Incorporating social determinants into health information systems is challenging, particularly when done on a large scale. Collecting such health data can be time-consuming, but healthcare technology is evolving to better accommodate the need.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student and former Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Research Immersion participant Rohini Chakravarthy highlighted these issues on February 3, 2020, at the School of Medicine’s Medical Scholars Research Symposium.



“The American Community Survey (ACS) provides an opportunity to map individuals to sociodemographic characteristics on a large scale,” Chakravarthy explained in her presentation. “Several indices have been derived from ACS data which capture housing characteristics, employment composition, educational levels and many other social-determinants variables.”

The presentation, titled “Determinants of Stage at Diagnosis of HPV-related Cancers,” sought to determine just how those variables were associated with stages of human papillomavirus (HPV) cancer.

“In this study, we used an Area Deprivation Index (ADI) based on six ACS census-tract level socioeconomic issues,” she explained. “Our population consisted of men and women with HPV-related cancers from an urban academic medical center.”

The end result showed no association between individual or aggregate census variables and cancer stages.

“These results may reflect a small sample size, a lack of sociodemographic diversity in our population or suggest that simplifying social determinants of health into a single geocoded index is not a reliable surrogate for assessing a patient’s socioeconomic risk,” Chakravarthy said.


Medical Scholars Program

The Medical Scholars Program (MSP) is a one-year, in-depth research experience available to students of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College (MMC). Its central goal is training leaders in academic medicine, ultimately strengthening and expanding the nation’s pool of medically-trained researchers.

The program is based on solid clinical and research training. It aims to foster an interest in research among medical students that may lead to the pursuit of a career in academic medicine and the development of independent scientific careers.

Students can be involved in the program after their first year of medical school until after their fourth year. Medical scholars include Vanderbilt and Meharry’s best medical students, and as a group, they’ve compiled an admirable training record.


About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.