Meet the Researcher - Nisha Sridhar

Breakout Room: 15

NishaResearcher Name: Nisha Sridhar
Title of Research: Pediatric Residency Training on Adverse Childhood Experiences: Current Practices, Barriers, and Future Steps
Division Representing: Health Sciences
Institution: University of Oregon
Institution Location: Oregon
Home State: Oregon
District Number: 4
Advisor/Mentor: David Frank
Funding Source: N/A

Research Experience:  
Nisha Sridhar is passionate about understanding the effects of adversity on child development and she is making a difference through compassion, learning, and leadership.  Her interest in the field began when she first witnessed the effects of adversity on children impacted by the AIDS epidemic at the YRG Center for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai, India.  As a senior at the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, she is the recipient of the nationally prestigious, merit-based Stamps Leadership Scholarship.  She is a University Innovation Fellow, a current Newman Civic Fellow, and Wayne Morse Scholar of Law and Politics.  As a freshman, she became involved in research examining the effects of adverse childhood events on brain development at the Stress Neurobiology and Prevention Lab.  This motivated her to seek out research opportunities at the Yale Child Study Center examining fear learning in youth and at Oregon State University studying caregiver-child interactions.  When not studying the effect of childhood adversity, she volunteers at the free clinic Albany InReach which serves uninsured members in her community, and she works as a clinic coordinator at Community Outreach Clinic.  She is the founder of Teens Care Teens Share which conducts research and advocacy on educating high schoolers on organ donation. She is working with her state representative to pass legislation mandating education on organ donation for Oregon high schoolers.

Presentation Experience: 
Science communication and advocacy have always been passions of mine. As a high schooler, I studied the attitudes and knowledge of my peers on organ donation and advocated for making such education mandatory in Oregon. After 4 years of advocacy, the state legislature finally has drafted a bill. I have been invited to present on this subject at state and national conferences.  I have also been invited to give a town hall speech on climate change.  Translating scientific research to engage the general public is a challenge that I enjoy.  In my freshman year of college I presented my summer research project on the relationship between demographics and HIV disclosure rates in Southern India at the Undergraduate Research Symposium and subsequently at the Western Regional Global Health Conference. Throughout college, I attended classes on science communication, including a course in neuro journalism.   My undergraduate research examines caregiver and child stress neurobiology and I have been awarded two grants for this work. I have presented my project at undergraduate conferences, and have given a talk at the City Club of Eugene, which was carried live by a local radio station.  In preparing for the show, I went through many revisions with my mentor and learned how to make the presentation compelling, and accessible. In 2019, I was selected to be on the TEDxUOregon team where I had the opportunity to interact with and coach speakers. Supported by the Stamps Scholarship, I attended the OpEd project public writing course.     

Significance of Research:       
Adverse Childhood Events (ACES) such as physical and mental abuse and stressful family environments are a significant public health issue that has been linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse in adulthood. Pediatricians, as advocates for the health and well being of children, are uniquely positioned to intervene in a child's life. However, their current training curriculum does not sufficiently prepare them to play this supportive role (Schmitz et. al., 2019).  The aim of this study is to examine the current state of ACEs education in United States pediatric graduate medical education (residency) programs.  A standard random sample of states was created according to region (West, Northeast, Midwest, South).  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with pediatric program directors, faculty, and chief residents in the sampled states to understand current educational practices, barriers to implementation, and attitudes on the subject. A comprehensive literature review on MEDEdPortal and PubMed was conducted as well.  Pediatricians recognize the importance of ACEs education, and early attempts have been made at integrating instruction on the subject.  However, there are varied approaches to residency education on ACEs in the absence of a national standardized curriculum.  Residency programs face numerous barriers to implementing ACEs education: including time constraints, lack of subspecialists to provide instruction, and competing curricular requirements.  This study provides the next steps for this educational field.  Improvements in ACEs education has especially far-reaching consequences during this current global pandemic as children are exposed to unprecedented stressors.  

Uniqueness of Research: 
A pandemic represents adversity, but young children are disproportionally affected due to the long term consequences of exposure to early stressors Effective education on early adversity for pediatricians is vital for future efforts in supporting children affected by Adverse Childhood Events.