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Christian Hemmerich, a second year medical student at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Christian Hemmerich, a second year medical student at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

OSU med students study inequalities, gaps in ophthalmology research

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Media Contact: Sara Plummer | Communications Coordinator | 918-561-1282 | sara.plummer@okstate.edu

A team of OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students from both the Tulsa and Tahlequah campuses spent six months researching, writing and then publishing an article that analyzed previous studies conducted into inequalities of ophthalmology care. They found notable inequalities among Black and Hispanic patients that led to negative outcomes.

The students’ research also found no specific studies that examined inequalities in LGBTQ patient populations, and their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Ophthalmology

Christian Hemmerich is a second-year medical student at OSU-COM and lead author of the study.

“Our research team recognized that deficient ophthalmologic care is costly to patients, making the identification of groups not receiving adequate care of vital importance,” Hemmerich said. “Overall, lower-income patients were more likely to have vision impairment, use eye care services less and have lower adherence to eye examinations.”

Hemmerich’s fellow authors include OSU-COM second-year student Garrett Jones, OSU-COM third-year students Jordan Staggs and Rigel Bacani, third-year OSU-COM at the Cherokee Nation student Reece Anderson, and Office of Medical Student Research Director Matt Vassar, Ph.D. The team looked at 75 ophthalmic research articles published between 2016 and 2021 that discussed health inequities.

Hemmerich said they found substantial research gaps in the ophthalmologic literature pertaining to the LGBTQ community, race and ethnicity, and rural and under-resourced areas.

“There were many surprising findings, however, some of the most noteworthy were that zero studies investigated inequities within LGBTQ groups and only 27 percent of studies that focused on race and ethnicity inequalities included American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander patients,” he said. 

The article suggests future studies should examine and investigate barriers to clinical study and medical trainee recruitment, patient values and preference studies, and the implementation of telemedicine in under-resourced areas.

“I feel honored to have this research published in such an esteemed journal,” Hemmerich said. “I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity and to use the JAMA platform to share our research and contribute to the scientific literature.”

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