Biology and women’s studies are two concentrations not usually associated with one another. Ashley Perritt ’14, a 2012 Levitt Summer Grant Recipient, plans to bridge this gap with her summer research project, “An Investigation of the Profiling in the Emergency Room.” Perritt will be advised by Elizabeth J. McCormack Associate Professor of Women's Studies Vivyan Adair.
A biology concentrator who plans to attend medical school, Perritt took advantage of Hamilton’s open curriculum and enrolled in Introduction to Women’s Studies in the fall of 2011, where she was inspired to combine her passion for the sciences with her interest in social issues.
As a part of her Introduction to Women’s Studies coursework, Perritt read Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work,” an essay on class profiling in schools, which peaked Perritt’s interest in issues of class. After replicating Anyon’s study on a smaller scale at Clinton and Utica schools and reading “Class Matters ,” a series of essays published in The New York Times which apply class profiling to the medical community, Perritt was motivated to conduct her own study on class profiling in the emergency room.
Perritt plans to study the extent to which class profiling occurs in hospital emergency rooms and how that class profiling affects patient care. She has conducted socioeconomic and demographic mapping of neighborhoods surrounding four New Jersey hospitals in order to classify hospitals as primarily serving low, middle or upper income patients.
Perritt will ride along with ambulance crews who service these four hospitals and examine the decisions making process that patients and paramedics undergo when choosing which of the hospitals to attend. Specifically, she’ll examine how a patient’s socioeconomic class affects their decision.
She will also conduct observations of emergency rooms at these four hospitals in order to examine how patients’ physical appearance – and thus perceived class status – affects their level of care and prescribed treatment plan. Perritt plans to interview emergency room doctors on what factors of appearance are taken into account when choosing care and treatment options. She also hopes to interview patients on their experiences with emergency room profiling after obtaining proper confidentiality wavers.
Perritt hopes her research will provide the health care community with a better understand of the frequency and type of patient profiling that occurs in hospital emergency rooms and the extent to which this profiling positively or negatively affects patient care. She believes that “profiling [in hospital emergency rooms] will never be completely eradicated, and that’s not a problem, because accurate profiling can sometimes lead to more personalized care.” On the other hand, Perritt is worried that emergency rooms may be denying certain expensive medical procedures to patients based on their perceived or actual socioeconomic class. She plans to co-write a paper on her findings with Professor Adair and to give a public talk to the Hamilton community on the issue of class profiling in healthcare.
Perritt’s study of hospital profiling will not end with the conclusion of her Levitt Summer Grant research. She will be studying abroad in Argentina in the fall of 2012 and hopes to gain insight on hospital profiling from an international perspective. Specifically, Perritt will observe the potential differences in Argentinean hospital profiling that result from Argentina’s primarily public healthcare system. She hopes one day to continue researching hospital profiling in a variety of international healthcare systems with the assistance of a postgraduate fellowship.
Ashley Perritt is a graduate of the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey)