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Below is a blog post from one of our 2023 Human Rights Summer Research Grant awardees, Taylor Glatt, who spent the summer in Durham, NC, surveying and interviewing medical providers about the perceived barriers to healthcare for refugees
To learn more about the Human Rights Summer Research Grant, click here.


I’d planned to write a thesis for my Program II, The Ethics of Health and War in Conflict Zones, when I was creating my major, but I wasn’t sure about what topic I’d pursue. I’ve always been interested in increasing health equity and identifying barriers to healthcare in order to improve population health. As my research and discussions with mentors began, I narrowed my idea towards refugee health in Durham. I decided to focus on Durham for a few reasons. The first was that given my research experience as an undergraduate, a meaningful project would need to be focused in a place where I had connections and resources to help me. Second, Durham has had an increasing number of refugees and was in the top 10 states for refugee resettlement in 2022. And lastly, given the robust healthcare system that Duke offers, I was curious which areas of Duke Health interacts with refugee patients, how providers view the accessibility of these healthcare services, and what are the gaps between their perspectives and existing research on refugee barriers.

When I was doing some background research, I discovered that there is a lack of research on the provider side, so I was interested in surveying and interviewing providers to ask them about their perception on barriers to refugee care. My definition of provider is broader, with the goal of encompassing healthcare professionals who serve in various roles such as physicians, nurses, financial counselors, respiratory therapists, receptionists or intake employees. This grant gave me the opportunity to jumpstart my research over the summer and begin surveying the perspectives of these providers. 

At the beginning of the summer, it took a bit of time to finish my IRB and get approval as I was deciding on data and privacy protocols, figuring out Qualtrics and survey questions, as well as deciding whether to include compensation for survey completion. I decided against compensation as the survey is intended to be quick and after discussion with a few providers, I realized that a $5-10 award would most likely not sway respondents into completely answering the survey. Once my IRB was approved, I could begin emailing different connections I had made throughout my undergraduate experience at Duke. This was when I realized that getting survey responses, and interview interest was going to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated. 

I had reached out to a former professor of mine who worked in administration at Duke Health and as a physician. I had talked with him earlier in the year on advice about conducting my thesis research and he had been an incredibly helpful resource. I asked him to share my survey with anyone he knew who would fall into the category of serving refugee patients. He responded and let me know he had sent it to many of his colleagues. I was elated that I was going to see the survey responses trickle in and begin to analyze my data. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I didn’t receive any responses. I continued emailing people, but struggled to get responses. I finally received my first response which was very exciting, but it took a lot more emailing and reaching out to people than I expected. 

This summer has definitely taught me a lot about research recruitment, engaging participants, and making sure that when people first open a survey, they actually complete it. As I head into the school year, I am excited to continue to gather survey responses and conduct a few interviews, hopefully. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to start with my research over the summer, and thankful for the support from the Duke Human Rights Center. I hope that my research will yield meaningful analysis on how to reduce the health inequities that many refugees face as they resettle here in Durham and in North Carolina.