MPH Internship Highlight: Improving Patient‑Centered Communication about Early Abortion Methods
A culminating highlight of The Institute's on-campus Master of Public Health program is the opportunity for students to take what they've learned out into the field. Our internship profile series looks at how they've applied what they learned to their own interests in improving health and health care.
Patient‑centered communication about early abortion method decision making
Nikhita Thaper, MPH '17
Public Health Issue to Address:
Women’s reproductive health is a significant and politicized public health concern in the United States. With growing restrictions being placed on abortion services and the stigma surrounding abortion procedures, there is a critical need to help women feel empowered and comfortable making decisions which are most appropriate for them.
My internship work supported Kyla Donnelly’s doctoral research at The Dartmouth Institute on studying women’s perspectives and preferences when it comes to making decisions about early abortion methods. I collected and analyzed data from web-based discussion forums to learn how women are talking to each other about their early abortion method experiences online. For example, I found that women use common reference points they can relate to, such as comparing potential pain levels to those associated with menstrual cramps. The goal of this project is to produce recommendations for providers and people who create patient decision aids on how they may communicate early abortion method options to women in ways that are easiest to understand and that clear up any misconceptions.
Through my research I also found that when women are talking about abortion online, they often talk about the experience of encountering protesters outside of clinics. It saddens me to think there are people shaming women for just going to the clinic, or for considering abortion, as it is already a hard decision for women to make. I always tell Kyla that she’s doing important work on a contentious issue that needs all the support possible.
I would like to pursue a PhD or a DrPH so this internship was an opportunity for me to get a feel for working in an academic research environment. I have enjoyed observing the dynamic between Kyla and her PhD advisor, Rachel Thompson. It has given me a lot of insight into what I want in a mentor as I’m working on my doctorate.