Undergraduate Research Project Aims to Benefit Community
Saturday, Apr 9, 2011
|Carson Burns '11 and Charles Procknow '11
Common knowledge colors Walla Walla as a unique place. It also has unique healthcare needs. But what exactly are those needs? Two passionate Whitman College seniors have been working hard to find out.
Charles Procknow ’11 and Carson Burns ’11 have volunteered at the local SOS Clinic since their second year at Whitman. The clinic provides free walk-in services to low-income individuals with no insurance.
“Working at the SOS is always the highlight of my week,” Procknow said. “I love working with the patients and nurses, and gaining an inside view into Walla Walla’s health needs.”
After a year of volunteering and gaining first-hand experience, the two resolved to make a lasting impact upon the clinic that had so influenced them. When Dr. Henry Crowder, Walla Walla County’s public health administrator, asked the pair to keep track of patient demographics and illnesses, they took the idea and ran with it. And then some.
They conceived of a research project that, through intensive data collection, would create a comprehensive and accessible view of Walla Walla County’s specific healthcare needs. With this knowledge, they hoped that the clinic would be able to better adapt to the services its patients require and position itself to better serve them.
“I believe the results of the study will provide the SOS Board with the necessary tools to significantly improve the functioning of the SOS Clinic, and thus better meet the healthcare needs of the community members without healthcare,” Burns said.
By documenting every patient visit to the clinic in the year 2009, the two generated a huge pool of data from which they drafted a “health profile” of the uninsured. Having no previous experience in handling such voluminous sets of data it was quite an arduous task for the pair, especially working without an adviser. They presented their findings to the SOS Board of Directors in February 2011.
According to Dr. Crowder, “The database provides easy access to the information. What makes it exceptionally useful is the way they’ve automated the sorting and analyzing features so the data can be looked at from many different points of view, turning data into usable information.”
Their contribution was timely, as the clinic is poised to expand into a new facility within the next few years. Its services are indispensible for those without insurance, and the clinic eases the burden of charity care for Walla Walla’s hospitals and other healthcare providers. With this new resource, the clinic can be more effective in their work.
When asked about his source of inspiration for the project Procknow said, “When I look around at my classmates, I see people who are working towards concrete and tangible goals in the community. I find this inspiring!”
-Troy Cameron ’14