News & Stories

Jordan Johnson, College of Medicine student

Student Tackles Malnutrition in Older Adults in Summer Research Project

Through the Summer Research Fellowship Program at Northeast Ohio Medical University, medicine or pharmacy students gain intensive training in research procedures by working (often side by side) with research mentors. In addition to these students, who are paid a stipend by NEOMED, other NEOMED students found funding on their own for summer 2019 internships or programs elsewhere in Ohio, as well as at institutions including the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Harvard University.  

The Summer Research Fellowship Program culminates each year in an event called Poster Day. Below is a reflection by second-year College of Medicine student Jordan Johnson on his summer experience.

Over the summer, I worked on research projects in New York City at New York University through the Medical Students Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program, which I discovered through my time here as a first-year College of Medicine student at NEOMED.

My research was centered on adult day centers, a form of community-based, long-term care for older adults. Specifically, the projects I was involved in looked at malnutrition in these increasingly common forms of care for older adults. It has been shown recently that up to 65% of the older adults utilizing these services are at risk for malnutrition. I aimed to identify themes within these centers that lead to this percentage being so high.

Most of my summer was spent analyzing interviews, identifying these themes and writing a manuscript that corresponded with the data.

We found through these interviews that many of the policies governing these adult day centers create layers of barriers to healthy nutrition. For example, many adult day centers are ethnically diverse and serve populations unique to the areas in which they are located. However, all of these centers must follow the same guidelines for nutrition in order to receive reimbursement from the government for the meals provided. This includes serving milk at all meals.

However, the adult day centers we interviewed were mainly serving East Asian immigrant communities, many of whose members are lactose intolerant. Therefore, this milk often goes to waste. The older adults present also lose that potentially vital source of caloric intake.

Along with this project, I worked on additional research, which focused specifically with dementia patients who use the adult day centers and their nutrition dynamic in the centers and at home.

I was able to learn a lot about clinical research and its impact on patient populations over the summer, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend my summer working to learn more about the aging population as it increases in size.

— Jordan Johnson, a second-year College of Medicine student contributed this reflection.