Our Big Data for Reproductive Health Bass Connections team worked on three teams throughout the year and presented their work at the Bass Connections Showcase.

Using Natural Language Processing (NLP) Techniques to examine Stigma with Cervical Cancer in Kenya

Members: Foxx Hart, Lynne Wang, Alexandra Lawerence, and Neha Shrishail

For our project, we utilized topic modeling to identify recurring themes and sentiments in HIV interview data with Kenyan women, as well as develop an understanding of stigma frameworks. This year we were able to learn new technical and project management skills while diving deeper into the emerging interdisciplinary space between quantitative machine learning and qualitative social science research. Due to the many nuances and complexities involved with categorizing stigma, we have concluded that rudimentary NLP is not sufficient for identifying the various forms of stigma in qualitative data. However, we believe that this was a great introduction to applying these methods to an important area in global reproductive health. We hope more research will be done on the applications of NLP in stigma research.

Analyzing the association between armed conflict and contraceptive use in Mali, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria

Members: Sunrita Gupta, Payton Little, Shari Tian

Conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Megan Huchko, Dr. Amy Finnegan, and Kelly Hunter exposed us to a variety of data analytics methods, computational strategies, and creative outlets for working with large volumes of data. Our project, Analyzing the Impact of Organized Conflict on Contraceptive Use in Africa, especially provided us with multiple opportunities to utilize a variety of data sources, including the contraceptive calendar data from the Demographic Health Surveys, conflict data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, and foreign aid data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Creating an analytical plan and learning the skills needed to carry it out such as coding pushed us to learn a lot about the research process and helped us build our ability to think critically about a topic. However, one of the biggest things we learned from the experience was problem solving–throughout our time working, we discovered that research involves challenges and roadblocks. For us, this meant having to readjust and fine-tune our research question multiple times and finding creative yet strategically sound ways to complete our analysis. Overall, the project provided us with an amazing opportunity that allowed us to immerse ourselves in social science research, learn hard research skills as well as soft skills from collaboration and presentation of our work, and get to know some amazing mentors and teammates.

Analyzing access to modern contraception and understanding reproductive rights among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Carolina: A mixed methods study

Members: Lauren Mitchell, Linda Tang, Bhamini Vellanki

Throughout the year, our team made significant progress on both the quantitative and qualitative components of the Bass Connections Student Research Award project. After a nearly year-long process, we successfully obtained access to the North Carolina Medicaid claims data from the Duke Department of Population Health Sciences, oriented ourselves, and began analysis. Currently, we are in the process of identifying preliminary findings related to receipt of contraceptive health care services between women with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by procedure type, contraceptive type, and across sociodemographic factors. In February, we received approval from Duke Campus IRB to conduct in-depth interviews at residential facilities, and are now recruiting interview participants. As we have navigated numerous victories and challenges over the course of the year, Bass Connections has provided invaluable insight into the research process. Our team has partnered with and learned from an interdisciplinary team of biostatisticians, IDD experts, and obstetrician-gynecologists, gained detail-oriented project-management and communication skills, and practiced flexibility and perseverance despite logistical barriers. We are excited to continue to work together throughout the summer as we finalize quantitative and qualitative analysis. Our final goal is production of a manuscript to inform future clinical guidelines and policy initiatives.

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