Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Transforming Stories Into Actionable Data

June 14, 2017

Moderator's Note: This forward comes from Eve Weiss, MS, former managing director of CChIPS: I was fortunate to mentor Janice Bonsu in her work at CIRP with Dr. Allison Curry, exploring the perspectives and experiences of healthcare professionals who provide driving rehabilitation services to adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We worked together on qualitative research methodologies, and I provided a focus on best practices when conducting in-depth interviews and interpreting resultant data. Janice went on to conduct 17 interviews with healthcare professionals; in the process, she discovered important trends about how driver training is provided to adolescents with ASD. Here is Janice Bonsu, MPH:

Janice (left) with Amani Abdallah, a former research assistant at CIRP and fellow MPH grad

As a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program, I have spent the past two years learning how to confront various issues, including the opioid epidemic, the state of criminal justice, and healthcare policy. Albeit overwhelming, it has been rewarding.

I decided to pursue my MPH after an independent research project as an undergrad at Johns Hopkins took me to my parents’ country of Ghana for my first qualitative study. I sought to understand how the practice of traditional medicine impacted the treatment of chronic diseases in Sunyani. In speaking with patients, doctors, herbalists, and traditional priests, it became apparent that there were deeply rooted cultural intricacies that resulted in delays in health care-seeking behaviors. I returned determined to pursue my MPH to help understand the reality of what I witnessed.

Since then, I’ve participated ina variety of research projects to explore my interests: working  at the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab at Johns Hopkins; interviewing Baltimore city youth following the riots of 2015; working on a qualitative study to improve patients’ postsurgical outcomes at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation; and now conducting qualitative research at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

At CIRP, I work with Dr. Allison Curry’s team researching the prevention of motor vehicle crashes in adolescents. I joined Dr. Curry’s team to bring the stories in qualitative research to the numbers in epidemiology. This means diving deep into the observable trends that we see in the numbers to understand the human impact and effect. We hope that these perspectives, together, can offer a more dynamic understanding of how we can support adolescents with developmental disabilities who are capable of safe driving.

This skill of storytelling has found its natural partner in epidemiology. What is special about working at a place like CIRP is the multidisciplinary approach we take to combat the risks to children’s health. I sit only a few feet away from bioengineers, behavioral scientists, and epidemiologists. Our research methods are distinct, but we are all united under the same mission. As a young professional, this type of work (and learning) environment has expanded my perception of how research should be conducted.

With my MPH studies completed, I am ready to start my next chapter as a medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. As before, the path ahead of me is dotted with options of specialty fields.

I am energized and reassured that my training and skills of storytelling will serve me well. There is but one thing that humans want: to be heard. The ability to transform stories into actionable data is one that will never be undervalued.