Doctoral candidate Wafa Tarazi, MHPA, in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research
For healthcare policy researchers like Wafa Tarazi, MHPA, explaining the results of their studies to people from different fields can often be a significant challenge. When your audience can’t understand small things, like certain terms or concepts, they’re liable to miss the overarching significance or impact of a study altogether.
To address this obstacle, AcademyHealth, a health services research and policy organization, sponsors an annual competition that challenges students to successfully explain a research paper in layman’s terms.
This year, Tarazi, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, and three other students presented on Austin Frakt’s “Plan–Provider Integration, Premiums, and Quality in the Medicare Advantage Market.” The article discusses how integration between Medicare plans and healthcare providers relates to plans’ premiums and quality ratings. Each student had about seven minutes to present and had to act as if the audience had no expertise in health care.
Tarazi chose to construct a narrative as a way of expressing the article’s complex material.
“I used my grandma as the main character of the story, and showed pictures of seniors, a hospital, a health insurance company, and the Affordable Care Act to demonstrate the interactions between them. In addition, I talked slowly in a way that would make the audience easily imagine the story of my grandma and realize how policy changes could affect her health insurance plan.”
Tarazi’s approach worked, as both the panel of judges and the audience picked her as the winner of the competition. They highlighted her use of personal connection and vivid imagery as being particularly effective.
Although she appeared to breeze through the competition, Tarazi initially struggled to find the right tone for her presentation. After writing an abstract and being accepted into the competition, she took a few weeks to digest the article and produce a presentation. She then gave a practice presentation to faculty members Bassam Dahman, MS’07, PhD’09 (BIOS), Tiffany Green, PhD, and Lindsay Sabik, PhD.
“They didn’t like the first version of the slides. Although they liked the content and how I presented the important issues in the study, they thought the clipart and animations I used in the slides were distracting. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the feedback at first, but as I thought about it more carefully I saw what I needed to change. I prepared my second version of the slides in two days and had a unique opportunity to present them at a meeting of the Advanced Richmond Toastmasters club. I proudly took my slides to the competition at AcademyHealth.”
The feedback from her third presentation, of course, was all positive. Tarazi says she felt an enormous sense of pride seeing a group of her professors and colleagues in the audience clapping for her after winning the competition.
Tarazi says she learned a lot about presenting complex subjects in easy-to-understand language. She will need to call on her newfound skills soon, as she works to complete her dissertation on breast cancer screening and disparities in care before her expected graduation in 2016.
By Jack Carmichael