Undergraduate Research

Jackie Oh '23

OUR Featured Researcher: Jackie Oh '23

Jackie Oh.
Photo credit: Jacob Strauss

Jackie Oh (she/her) is a Biology and Sociology major conducting mentored research under Professor Alicia Smith-Tran. Her project is titled “A Sociological Analysis of Physician Video Biographies". 

Please describe your project: 

Hospitals across the country have relied more and more on social media in recent years to attract more patients and compete with neighboring medical institutions, using specific language and behavioral cues to emphasize their physicians’ specialties and interests. Professor Smith-Tran and I are looking to address physicians’ narratives and draw themes based on race, gender, medical specialty, and type of hospital from three Cleveland based hospital systems. This semester, we would like to look more into the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals and how this has affected the way hospitals have navigated social media.

Provide a brief summary of your research project (elevator speech):      

My research looks into the narratives physicians in the Cleveland area portray via video biographies posted by their hospital systems. We are analyzing themes across gender, race, medical specialty, hospital system, and hospital type (public vs. private) to determine how information is being emphasized to compete with neighboring medical institutions.

Why is your research important? 

This research exemplifies the themes across physicians’ gender and race that are extremely important to consider when looking for a new healthcare provider. Recognizing who is going to be treating you, the resources they have available, as well as their philosophy of care can drastically change the patients’ experience; we are working to make this type of information more readily available.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

During a day of research, I will typically meet with Professor Smith-Tran in her office for thirty minutes to an hour to talk through our agenda for the week, any short-term or long-term goals, or any questions and comments we need to address. Right now, I am in the process of gathering more background literature about how COVID-19 has affected the presence of hospitals and physicians online so it is mostly asynchronous.

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field?

So far, we have recognized three major themes across 130 physician video biographies pulled from Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, and University Hospitals. We found that white men tended to use personal success as motivators for being in their specialty or at their hospital while physicians of color, specifically women, attributed their main motivator to serving their community. Another theme that emerged was that white men from University Hospitals tended to portray a sense of confidence that seemed condescending compared to physicians from other hospitals. Finally, physicians from the MetroHealth system, a hospital system known to have less funding and accept more low-income patients, emphasized providing equity towards their patients. On the other hand, physicians from Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals emphasized their elite reputation and access to world-renowned technology and techniques.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

OSRI Summer Research Symposium 2022

How did you get involved in research?

I wasn’t involved in Oberlin research until the summer before my senior year because I wasn’t fully invested in any of the projects that were already occurring, and I had no idea what I was passionate about. When I heard that Professor Smith-Tran was teaching Medical Sociology courses in the Spring of 2022, it peaked my interests and I decided to reach out to her to see if she had any research interests or any ongoing projects she needed help with.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

My favorite part of this project is knowing that I am addressing gaps in Medical Sociology literature and finding ways to improve the medical industry. As a social sciences and STEM double major, I am able to fully immerse myself in scientific background as well and communications and Sociology literature.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

Working with Professor Smith-Tran has been amazing – she is fully supportive of my endeavors at Oberlin and beyond and is a resource I know I can rely on and turn to. With the development of this project, she has been understanding of my other commitments on campus and has taken the time to meet with me to talk through any of my confusions, questions, or comments.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?

Research has now become a major factor in my Oberlin experience; it has introduced me to a new community on campus and has gotten me more involved with the Office of Undergraduate Research. My research has also introduced me to new career pathways that I had not considered prior to meeting Professor Smith-Tran.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

I would say to take the leap and email the professor you’re interested in working with! I had never met Professor Smith-Tran prior to the summer during OSURF and cold-emailed her. Doing research you are passionate about really shows, and can be the start of a really great mentor-mentee relationship.