Meet the Researcher - Courtney Martin

Breakout Room: 24

Courtney_Martin_HeadshotResearcher Name: Courtney Martin
Title of Research: Investigating Cancer in Appalachian Kentucky through Content Analysis of Oral History Interviews
Division Representing: Social Sciences
Institution: University of Kentucky
Institution Location: Kentucky
Home State: Kentucky
District Number: 6
Advisor/Mentor: Nathan Vanderford
Funding Source: Summer Research Fellowship funded by the University of Kentucky's Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of Undergraduate Research; National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute

Research Experience: 
In 2020, I began working on the project 'Investigating Cancer in Appalachia Kentucky through Content Analysis of Oral History Interviews' alongside my mentor, Dr. Nathan Vanderford. This research focuses on Kentucky ranking first in the US in overall cancer incidence and mortality with the greatest burden being found in the Appalachian region. We use qualitative content analysis to uncover common theses among oral history interviews regarding the problems that cause the cancer disparities in Appalachian Kentucky and the potential solutions that could reduce the disparities. Since 2019, I have also conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. David Rodgers 'Endosomal Localizatrion Mechanism of Insulin-Degrading Enzyme' is focused on determining how IDE gains access to relevant substates through localization within cells. Better understanding this mechanism could present therapeutic approaches to treating Alzheimer's and Type II Diabetes by targeting IDE. We conduct various experiments focused on liposomal binding. I began volunteering with American Red Cross  in 2018 and serve as a Blood Program Leader. I host, organize and execute the planning of blood drives. One of my most memorable experiences was organizing the first ever blood drive with American Red Cross in my hometown which has since became an annual community drive. I also volunteer as a medical assistant at the Refuge Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky, which is an entirely free clinic that operates through volunteers. I deeply enjoy the opportunity to serve in this role and give back to a community in need of access to healthcare. 

Presentation Experience: 
This past August, I presented my research at the Summer Research Fellowship Symposium. Through this oral presentation, I had the opportunity to share my research to my peers and staff within the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Kentucky. In October, I participated in the 5 Minute Fast Track Research Competition. Participants came from various disciplines and had to present their entire project in 5 minutes or less to avoid being disqualified and were limited to only one slide. After being selected as a finalist, I moved to the final round alongside 10 other students. After the oral presentation, each presenter participated in a Q&A where questions were open for judges, other presenters, and the live audience to ask questions about each project. After deliberation, the award ceremony took place where I earned 2nd place overall.

Significance of Research:      
Kentucky ranks 1st in the United States in overall cancer incidence and mortality rates with the Appalachian region experiencing the highest rates of cancer. These disparities necessitate further investigation and action that will drive a reduction in cancer rates in the region. Using convenience sampling, we recruited individuals to participate in an oral history interview project about cancer in Appalachian Kentucky. The main questions of interest during the interviews focused on the problems being faced in Appalachian Kentucky, the factors contributing to the high rates of cancer in the area, potential solutions that would lower cancer rates and participants were asked to define what a successful future would look like for the region versus the future without intervention. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the interviews. Themes that emerged include lack of access to healthcare, lack of physicians, distrust of health care providers, and lack of health care literacy. Our findings illustrate the need for increasing health care access, eliminating distrust between patients and providers, addressing the economic burden, and increasing cancer literacy levels. These changes can be implemented in various ways including through government interventions that could aid in increasing the number of and access to health care facilities in the region and implementing policies that would increase cancer literacy by, for example, providing cancer education to residents in the area through provision of cancer curricula in schools and/or providing webinars and seminars. Implementing these changes has the potential to reduce the cancer burden in the area.

Uniqueness of Research: 
Kentucky ranks first in cancer incidence and mortality with the greatest disparities found in the Appalachian region of the state. To better understand cancer in this area, we took a novel approach by investigating high rates of cancer through oral history interviews, gaining insight into the problems contributing to this epidemic through individual perspectives.

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