HC Intern at New York Medical College works on COVID-19/Flu Vaccine Hesitancy Research

Nicole Letendre ’23

Features Editor

Christopher Smith ‘22, an environmental studies major from Tillson, NY worked as a Head Student Research Intern at New York Medical College, as well as with the medical professionals at Westchester Medical Center, on important research concerning both flu and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Chris, along with doctors and researchers, focused on particular factors that contribute to an individual’s decision to get vaccinated, such as demographics, beliefs, and personal standpoints. In addition, they were able to conduct research surrounding environmental health, even publishing advisories on the website of the New York State Department of Health.

Having spent time shadowing doctors from numerous specialties, Chris became fascinated with pediatric pulmonology and immunology, and the work they were doing. Making over 1,000 phone calls with patients, the research team Chris worked with was ultimately able to collect statistically significant results, making their vaccine-hesitancy research both highly useful and informative. The team concluded that there was ~20% hesitancy with the flu vaccine among NY residents, and about ~40% of residents in NY would be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, both of which are findings consistent with the published national average. Regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, a popular response among vaccine-hesitant patients was that they would rather be in the “second round” of vaccinations. The Crusader Internship Fund, which provides funding from alumni and some employers for students in unpaid internships, allowed Chris to receive an income due to his involvement in this research position. 

Photo courtesy of Christopher Smith ’22. Graphic design by Hui Li ’21 and Kim Fetherson ’22.

On September 30, Chris’ work experience was spotlighted in an online Zoom Hangout where students had the opportunity to listen to this important research and ask questions. Hosted in part by Shirley Konneh of Holy Cross Health Professions, networking and creating community were major focuses of the discussion. She reinforced that Handshake, a means to network and build employer connections, is a highly beneficial platform and handy for students, particularly those who are prospective medical students. She urges students to fall in love with the mission and culture of the company they are working for, which makes the difference between a career and a calling. 

Chris always knew he wanted to play a role in the medical field, and after shadowing doctors and participating in valuable research, he discovered new and exciting routes within the medical field. In the future, he would like to dive into more chemistry-related research, such as the specifics of how to make a vaccine. In addition, both his vaccine-hesitancy research and his team’s publications on the New York State Department of Health website has exposed him to crucial purposes within the field, as Chris stated, “I think I also want to be an educator now too.” 

Chris’s story sets an inspiring example for prospective medical students: to find an opportunity or experience that you love, and constantly seek to learn more and more. Though your knowledge of the medical field may begin at Holy Cross, it’s a lifelong education that will continue far beyond any courses or even our campus itself.

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