INSIGHT ON THE DISCREPANCIES IN SEVERITY AND TREATMENT OF STROKE IN MINORITY COMMUNITIES
by Oanh Nguyen
During this past year, the national population has been awakened to numerous socioeconomic and racial-based injustices hiding within our private and public systems. Minority communities have experienced an increase in hate crimes and have been painfully targeted by the COVID-19 virus. Yet, for these individuals, hostility, oppression, and discrimination pervade many aspects of their daily lives, including their visits to the doctor's office.
Christopher Kopreski, a third-year NBB major at Emory University, took on a project that explores just one facet of this marginalization of minority communities in the healthcare system: the treatment and severity discrepancies for minority stroke patients. Alongside himself, Kopreski’s research team consists of two undergraduates—Megna Rao and Justin Joseph—and a QTM Undergraduate Research Fellow—Tony Chen—all who are assisted and guided in their research by Principal Investigator Dr. Shilpa Krishnan at the Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) lab.
While the sociopolitical nature of our current society may bring attention to minority communities, Kopreski did not immerse himself into this area of discussion with a political mindset. Instead, Kopreski’s interests originated from external experiences. Prior to taking this research opportunity, he participated in the Young Stroke Peer Engagement Group where he developed personal connections with stroke survivors around the area. His former work as an Emergency Medical Technician also contributed to his focus on stroke treatment. From these experiences, Kopreski became aware of the harsh reality of healthcare discrimination, particularly for stroke survivors. He became passionate about the prospect of policy change, such that treatment would become more cohesive, applicable, and accessible for all stroke survivors, independent of race.
In joining the PCOR lab, Kopreski has been able to incorporate his background in anthropology and speak with stroke survivors directly, gathering data on their individual experiences, struggles, needs, and barriers. Kopreski argues that this aspect of his research has been uniquely influential as there is often a "gap between researchers and patients ... researchers often conduct research without actually hearing the stories of the survivors." To continue to bridge this gap, Kopreski immersed himself further in the Young Stroke Peer Engagement Group, which had now partnered with the PCOR lab.
Utilizing a qualitative method to assess his research, Kopreski and his team have found barriers to healthcare services for minority communities such as accessibility and continuity of care, affordability, and comprehension of health information. According to their research, Kopreski and his colleagues found strokes to be more prevalent in minority ethnic groups such as African- and Asian-Americans, and that both sociopolitical and biological dispositions act on this pattern. Minority groups are disproportionately affected by hypertension, stress, diabetes, and high cholesterol and are further faced with discrepancies in health care accessibility.
While Kopreski and his research team are still in their preliminary stages of data collection, significant and alarming trends are already beginning to surface, emphasizing the imperativeness in refining our current healthcare system. Essentially, they must be open to adopting necessary measures for stroke treatment such that survivors can understand and access the information and resources provided for them. With acknowledgement of these profound discrepancies, policy change should address the barriers associated with healthcare availability and financial accommodation. Perhaps this will also reveal similar inconsistencies with survivors of other life-threatening conditions.
To emphasize, biological dispositions do not support the distinctiveness of ethnic groups such that it lays a basis for ‘race’. Biological observations can only provide implications for patterns observed in nature. The dilemma here has been elucidated that ethnic minorities are disproportionately vulnerable to stroke, yet the healthcare system is not taking adequate treatment measures for the betterment of these survivors.
Oanh is a first-year in the class of 2024 considering a major in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology with a minor in Anthropology. She gets through the many inconveniences in her life using the CCC rule: Coffee, Chocolate, Cats. You can find her playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, watching anime, or failing tremendously at League of Legends.