Background: A native of France who is “fanatical” (his word) about football (the European kind), Mr. Baldassari was thrilled to learn the research he’s doing on health disparities among knee osteoarthritis patients won an ARHP award.
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Explore This IssueJanuary 2016
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“It’s an honor,” says Mr. Baldassari, who came to the U.S. when he was 15 and graduated Kalamazoo (Mich.) College with an economics and mathematics degree. “I’m involved in rheumatology through the lens of social epidemiology. The project, essentially, is trying to discern what characteristics are responsible for the health disparities we observe among people with arthritis.”
A two-month summer internship with Leigh Callahan, PhD, at UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center steered Baldassari to focus on rheumatology and immunology. After undergrad, he worked at Thurston for two years as a research assistant. Now he’s finishing the first half of the school’s combined master’s/doctorate program.
“Leigh got me interested in epidemiology and rheumatology at the same time,” he says. “She taught me the basics, let me grow into someone who, eventually, applied to a grad program in the field and, likely, will stay here for my entire career. I would be on a very different trajectory if not for Leigh.”
‘I do think it is encouraging that the ARHP shows interest in more refined methodology: Epidemiology is moving forward rapidly, and we need to keep up!’ —Antoine Baldassari
Q: What is the most fulfilling part of your young career?
A: First of all, being a grad student, you are always exposed to new ideas and information. It is exhilarating to process such gigantic amounts of information and progressively integrate it into your work. It is great.
Q: Knowing it has yet to be published, what is the key takeaway of your ARHP project?
A: Research methods matter, and they matter increasingly as our questions become more precise. The assumptions we make in statistical inference are often shakier than we like to admit, and traditional regression methods sometimes fail in non-obvious ways. For instance, usual methods often do a good job at estimating things like differences in arthritis outcomes between social classes, but they can’t confidently say whether differences in obesity rates drive that association, or by how much. Fortunately, newer methods in epidemiology allow us to take those problems on much better.
Q: What does this award mean to you?
A: I was excited that a project proposal with a thousand words on statistical methods got approved, and that people at the ARHP are as nerdy as I am. Jokes aside, I do think it is encouraging that the ARHP shows interest in more refined methodology: Epidemiology is moving forward rapidly, and we need to keep up!
ARHP Ann Kunkel Advocacy Award
Janalee Taylor, MSN, RN, CNS, CNP, Associate Clinical Director and Clinical Nurse Specialist, Division of Rheumatology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati