This summer I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant studying urinary incontinence in active women under a pediatric urologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Urinary incontinence (UI) is estimated to affect about half of adult women but remains highly stigmatized and under-reported in clinical settings. Because UI can significantly lower quality of life and serve as a barrier to exercise, treatment can be invaluable to patients but is unavailable to them if they've never spoken with a health care provider about their UI.
In response to the importance of addressing urinary incontinence and the stigmas associated with it, my mentor designed a comprehensive screening survey that can be used in both patient care as a screening tool and as a research tool to better understand UI and those being affected. Over 200 women have completed the survey so far.
This summer we worked with statisticians to use the data that has been collected to statistically validate the tool in preparation for publication and analyzed the data independently to identify trends. I was specifically interested in demographically and symptomatically characterizing the 66% of women that experience medically unaddressed urinary incontinence. After forming my research question, I cleaned and coded the data, statistically analyzed it, and made a formal scientific poster to present my research. I was able to identify younger and nulliparous women as less likely to have spoken with a medical provider about their UI despite no difference in symptomatic experience relative to older, parous women. Ideally, my project will encourage healthcare providers to initiate more conversations about UI with these patient populations that are more likely to be overlooked in terms of urinary incontinence. Ultimately, I hope our project will contribute to the destigmatization of urinary incontinence and improve quality of life for women with UI.
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to meaningful healthcare research this summer and learned so much in the process. I am so excited to continue learning and to do more research in the future!