TCOM student research is published in Journal of Adolescent Health

By Steven Bartolotta

TCOM student Katie AlbinResearch is one of the backbones that medicine can’t live without and Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine second-year student Katie Albin is hoping some of her latest research can help make a difference for the younger generation.

Albin teamed up with Dr. Diana Perkins, a Professor of Psychiatry from the UNC at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, to write an article that was recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Congratulations to Student-Doctor Albin on this great achievement,” said TCOM’s Associate Dean for Research Dr. Rita Patterson. “Not only did she successfully participate in research that was published but her mentor regarded her efforts enough to grant her first authorship.”

Albin, who is from Chapel Hill in North Carolina, teamed up with Dr. Perkins, the senior author, on the study before arriving at TCOM in 2019. It wasn’t just the fact that Walker was a local that caught the attention of Dr. Perkins.

“I’ve worked with a lot of students throughout the years and I was really impressed with her problem solving skills. They were exceptional,” Dr. Perkins said. “She was able to organize the data and went above and beyond what I expected. She showed perseverance and critical thinking and, given her interests in medicine, I could see that she had the talent to do more.”

The research focused on psychosis in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 30 and how primary care physicians can better diagnosis patients with this mental health disorder. Their research found a surprising result — almost one-third of clinicians were missing the diagnosis of psychosis.

“I think results were really surprising to me and the senior author (Dr. Perkins),” Albin said. “We weren’t expecting that one-third of the time clinicians were missing the diagnosis. That was pretty shocking.”

While figure might seem high, diagnosing this particular mental health disorder isn’t easy for clinicians with mental health itself presenting a myriad of problems.

“There were hints that were there for the providers, but something happened for them not to pick up on these tell-tale signs, and it’s understandable,” Dr. Perkins said. “It’s a hard differentiation and I don’t even expect ER clinicians to make the distinction between a major depression, behavior problems and psychosis.”

“We know diagnosing psychosis is very challenging for clinicians,” Albin said. “They are often misattributed to other mental health disorders, and that’s likely the main reason it’s being missed. Now what are some ways we can fix this problem?”

Albin’s research publication is a milestone for the second-year student as she eyes pediatrics and primary care as her specialty upon graduation. But she isn’t done with research.

“Medical student involvement in research aims to sharpen their ability to critically appraise new findings, and Katie was more than up for the task,” Dr. Perkins said.  “She added to the paper’s discussion section information she had learned from the TCOM curriculum about strategies to enhance diagnostic accuracy. I recognize how difficult it was for Katie to work on this paper at the same time as she was busy with medical school, and I appreciate her perseverance.”

Albin has taken part in two other research projects before arriving at TCOM, but this will be her first publication as an author.

“It’s really exciting, and it makes me want to do more research,” Albin said. “I hope this isn’t the last publication.”

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