The massive spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in America has caused people from all walks of life to turn a critical eye on the American health care system. The pandemic has exposed its weaknesses, forcing people to ask, who’s going to fix them? How?
One recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Jamie Benson, a Waterbury native, has made it his personal mission to improve the American health care system. On May 17, Benson, graduated pre-med with an individually designed major in health care structure and emergency medical services research. “I was able to create a pretty well-balanced major that dips its toe into data science, public health and sociology, and really gives me a broad array of skills in how to conduct qualitative and quantitative research,” said Benson.
Benson has always known he wanted to be a doctor but caught the research bug in college. He started as a biochemistry major but switched majors junior year after falling in love with the population health research he was doing with the Vermont Department of Health. “I changed when I realized that what I was most excited about was the research I was already doing,” said Benson.
“Population health is where so much of the increased life expectancy gains that we’ve had in the last century come from,” said Benson when asked about what drew him to population health research. “I’m a big data nerd. I like looking at systems to see how they can be improved. Population health is a natural fit for me. I would credit my work with the department of health for peaking my interest in that.”
Living through the current pandemic has only reemphasized Benson’s belief in the importance of a functional national health care system. “We need to ensure we’re healthy on a national level because our ability to respond to these new threats depends on how healthy we are as a population,” said Benson. “If we have massive health inequities, we’re never going to have a healthy population that’s able to handle these kinds of things.”
Still, the pandemic hasn’t prompted Benson to turn toward infectious disease research. Benson’s real passion is trauma care; it was the topic of his senior thesis.
Benson’s thesis examined and asked questions about how EMS providers treat a critically ill or injured patient. How do they determine what hospital a patient should be taken to? Do they put too much load on the provider? Are the providers even following protocols? What supports do EMTs need to make better decisions in the field?
“All these protocols are not well understood,” said Benson. To answer these questions, Benson had to surf through and analyze four years of data regarding 911 calls that involved traumatic injury.
In the future, Benson hopes to continue his work in population health research while working as a medical practitioner. He will take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) this year. “I want to be working somewhere where I can do population health research and not only get patient care contact but also be able to create new knowledge and always be learning new things,” said Benson.