A national conference that typically celebrates the research of residents and fellows selected Kathryn Shaia, a third-year medical student, to present her research findings. Shaia was one of only two medical students invited to speak at the University HealthSystem Consortium Annual Conference. She shared results of her study that showed how transitional care programs can reduce hospital readmissions rates by assigning a nurse practitioner to provide in-home services after discharge.
“Because this session targets residents and fellows, Kathryn’s selection is exceptional,” said Alan Dow, M.D., the School of Medicine’s assistant dean of clinical curriculum, who helped Shaia prepare for the conference.
Shaia was mentored by internal medicine professor Peter Boling, M.D., and initially submitted her research for a poster presentation. But, after reviewing her work, conference organizers asked her to give a more detailed 15-minute oral presentation.
From 2002 to 2009, the VCU Medical Center’s internal medicine service readmission rate was 17.3 percent. At the conference, Shaia shared research showing that a hospital transitional care program dropped the 30-day readmission rate to 7.23 percent for the patients who participated.
“We know that far too many patients are readmitted to the hospital within a month of discharge,” Dow said. “Kathryn’s project showed that having a nurse practitioner provide case management and medical services at a patient’s home could reduce the rate of readmissions to the hospital. Her work suggests this intervention could lead to higher quality care at less cost.”
As Shaia continues her journey to becoming a physician, she is looking to find the field of medicine that suits her best. But, she said, the findings from research projects like this will shape her perspective throughout her career.
“Prior to medical school, I received my M.H.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and I have always been interested in looking at healthcare from a systems perspective in addition to an individual patient perspective,” she said. “I am currently undecided as to what type of medicine I will practice, but I know that I will implement quality improvement initiatives in whatever field I choose.”