Mentored Research for Credit

Some students perform research with me for credit. I am very happy to support this, though the student will need to take the initiative to set things up. Each credit hour of research work requires about 50 hours of work. The student will need to:

1. Contact me with your interest and idea. This does not need to be detailed at this point.
2. Contact the department of health sciences and express your interest, and my approval. Make sure you know exactly what they require, and how to go about it. The class is HLTH 491R
3. Prepare for me a proposal with the number of credit ours, your plan, and specific outcomes. I am very happy to assist with this planning.
4. Register for the class.
5. Send me email updates every Friday with your progress, including your activities the prior week, your progress toward reaching the proposed objectives, and the number of hours you worked. The email subject should read “(your name)’s Mentored Research”.

Here are some more detailed information about the opportunity:

1. Is this a class?
No. It’s a discussion and research group.

2. What is the name of the discussion and research group?
Systems Thinking and Health.

3. What is systems thinking?
A discipline that considers the interactions between people, organizations, communities, etc. over time.

4. Why is systems thinking important in health?
Health (clinical medicine, public health, health policy, etc) has been dominated by “reductionism” over the past centuries by considering one patient, disease, policy, or program at a time. While this approach has been highly successful (the eradication of small pox and antibiotics, for example), there is increasing recognition that we need to complement reductionism with increased systems thinking because health is incredibly complex and dynamic.

5. Where can I learn more about systems thinking?
Here is a suggested reading list to get started: Consider glancing over several articles, then come back to those that interest you most. Dr. Swanson also has drop-boxes that have dozens of more articles. Ask frequently about the best reading, but also browse through the lists, and use google. Also, considering following our Facebook and Twitter social media sites.

6. How many credits can I get for participating in this group?
It is up to you really. The more credit you take the more work you will have to put into the class. Since this is mentored research credit, 1 credit hours is, according to BYU, 42-50 hrs of effort over the whole semester. You can take up to 2 credits per term or semester.

7. Will a more formal class be offered in the future?
In the past, a class called “health systems” was offered, but it will not be offered for at least another year. There are discussions about offering it in the future.

8. Will the group discussions and activities focus on domestic healthcare, public health, health reform, global health, or something else?
That is ultimately up to you, the students.

9. How do I sign up for the group?
You need an “add code” which Dr. Swanson’s administrative assistant can give you.

10. Can I participate for no credit?
Yes, and you can also participate for pass/fail.

11. What type of research will we be doing?
That depends largely on you, the students. Dr. Swanson has participated in and lead a number of research projects and papers related to systems thinking and health will colleagues all over the world, mostly involving conceptual writing and systematic reviews. See here for details:

12. Who is Dr. Swanson, anyway?
Chad Swanson, DO, MPH is a community emergency physician in Provo, Utah, USA with a passion for applying “systems thinking” concepts, approaches, and methods to transform health systems. After medical training, he received a Masters Degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Swanson currently teaches international health and health systems at Brigham Young University, and has published in journals such as the Lancet and PLoS Medicine on topics related to health systems strengthening and global health. He is the founding co-chair of the American Public Health Association’s working group on systems sciences and health, and is interested in high-impact activities that cross disciplines, mobilize stakeholders, and transform systems. Dr. Swanson was the primary organizer of a high-level conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in August 2012 that focused on increasing organizational capacity in low-income countries to strengthen health systems. He is also on his physician group’s executive committee, and handles patient emergency department complaints at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Chad is married and has five children.

13. Where and when will we meet?
Meeting locations, dates, and times are posted here:

14. Will the discussion group be offered in future terms and semesters?
Yes. Dr. Swanson currently plans to offer this indefinitely; every term and semester.

14.5 Can I participate for more than one semester or term? Absolutely! In fact, I recommend it.

15. Who will lead the discussions and research projects?
You, the students. Dr. Swanson will facilitate and contribute, but the students will ultimately determine the quality and outcomes of the group. You will be expected to “self-organize” into groups and/or join some groups that Dr. Swanson is already collaborating with.

16. What will my grade be based on? 4 factors will determine your final grade; each will contribute approximately 25%. The last week of class you will provide Dr. Swanson with a report that includes the following information:

• the number of hours that you spent working on class activities (coming to discussion groups, reading, working with other students, etc) as a percentage of the number of credit hours you are taking multiplied by 42.
• A brief summary of your activities that term/semester, including a reading list.
• your attendance and participation in the discussions group meetings as a percentage of total classes;
• a unique final product such as a paper, proposal, study, etc, due one week before the last day of class.

17. Are the other ways to get involved?
Absolutely! Consider joining the “systems thinking and health” google group, and the “students for systems thinking and health” Facebook group. This blog might also provide information:

18. What if I’m frustrated with how things are going? Or what if I don’t think Dr. Swanson is coming to enough meetings? Or what if I’m not getting enough feedback on what I’m doing? Or what if I think we should do things differently?
The more you take ownership and initiative with this experience, the better it will be. Let Dr. Swanson and his assistant know about your frustrations early. Ask lots of questions. Make suggestions. This is a “no training wheels” group!

19. Who should I contact if I want more information?
Dr. Swanson: swancitos (at) gmail (dot) com

1 Comment »

  1. […] I facilitate a weekly Systems Thinking and Health discussion group on BYU campus.  We usually meet in room RB 202 or 204 on Thursdays at 11a.  However, it depends on the level of interest.  You can get credit for participating in this group.  See this page for details. […]

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