The Charger Blog

Health Sciences Major, Professors Share Impactful Research at Prestigious Conference

Jacob Fazekas ’22, Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, and Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, have been conducting research on important public health issues that suggests a need for further investigation and policy change. They recently shared their findings with a national public health community, and they hope their work leads to meaningful reform.

November 17, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Alvin Tran presenting on Zoom.
Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, presents at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.

Jacob Fazekas ’22 has been working on research that he calls “eye-opening,” as it has shed light on how common intimate partner violence is in America. He recently had the opportunity to share the findings with a national audience.

A health sciences major, Fazekas has been working with Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, to explore the prevalence of intimate partner violence. They focused primarily on bisexual and gay men, exploring the role the increased popularity of mobile dating applications has had on intimate partner violence. Fazekas helped create and pilot the survey that they launched last spring.

Fazekas is a lab assistant in the University’s WeEmbody Lab., a working group of public health professionals and students that focuses on issues around the sociocultural factors associated with body image dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and related concerns, which Dr. Tran leads.

“This research suggested how common intimate partner violence is in our nation,” said Fazekas. “It is concerning that it does not get broader attention or generate more discussion. For me, a large takeaway from working on this project was that we can all be advocates for those around us to create a better environment for expressing our stories and starting the hard conversations.”

‘There is a deafening silence surrounding intimate partner violence’

Dr. Tran, whose research focuses on the health of members of the LGBTQ+ community, agrees that it is an issue in need of more attention. He says few studies focus on sexual minority populations such as gay and bisexual men, citing a review study that suggests only three percent of existing research on intimate partner violence focuses on sexual minorities.

Aiming to address this gap, the WeEmbody Lab launched an online study earlier this year, recruiting more than 600 gay and bisexual men. Fazekas and Dr. Tran found that 20 to 36 percent of their sample experienced intimate partner violence, results that Dr. Tran calls “alarming.”

“There is a deafening silence surrounding intimate partner violence and sexual minority male populations across the globe,” he explained. “This silence fuels the stigma that surrounds men who experience intimate partner violence, discouraging them from seeking assistance as it may result in discrimination.

“Furthermore, many available shelters and treatment programs are not equipped to provide services to gay and bisexual victims,” he continued. “We can – and must – do better. I plan to use my research to better inform the development of such treatment and support programs.”

Dr. Tran, who serves as the University’s assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, and Fazekas recently presented their findings at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting, which was held online. They wanted to educate their audience about the seriousness of the problem facing the communities they examined.

Dr. Tran says he is confident the experience has been a meaningful and invaluable learning opportunity for Fazekas.

“I hope this experience has prepared Jacob for the advanced health sciences courses that he will be taking over the course of his education at the University of New Haven, including epidemiology and research writing and design,” he said. “He has told me he’s interested in the master of public health program, and this experience will put him on the right track.”

Image of Karl Minges with American College of Cardiology sign.
Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH. The American College of Cardiology sponsored his recent research on heart failure education.
‘I hope this research has a long-lasting impact’

Dr. Tran and Fazekas were not the only members of the University community to take part in the conference. Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, an expert on improving the health populations of vulnerable populations, presented his research into the variation of aftercare guidance for those diagnosed with heart failure.

Chair of the Health Administration and Policy Department at the University, Dr. Minges is dedicated to understanding how healthcare is delivered and to developing ways to improve access to care. He also endeavors to help reduce variation in care, and he hopes to foster meaningful change in health policy.

Image of Jacob Fazekas with his brother.
Jacob Fazekas ’22 on campus with his brother.

His most recent work explored healthcare education following a diagnosis of heart failure – one that, he says, is often challenging for patients to manage given the complexity of the self-care regimen that is typically required following a hospital discharge. He says patients who received proper education tend to benefit in myriad ways, including higher quality of life and lower mortality.

He assisted with a study that included more than 1.5 million heart failure patients – more than 70 percent of whom received heart failure education. Researchers explored the heart failure education the patients received in areas such as physical activity and medication instruction.

Dr. Minges hopes the research will lead to meaningful and lasting changes in the education across the board that patients diagnosed with heart failure receive.

“There is significant variation in the provision of heart failure educational practices, which may undermine efforts to engage patients and achieve optimal health outcomes,” he said. “Approaches to improve the provision of heart failure education in the outpatient setting may benefit from targeting specific clinical- and practice-related factors. For instance, an intervention could be developed to focus on those who tend to receive less heart failure education, such as older adults.”

Like Dr. Minges, Fazekas, the health sciences major, hopes his work will lead to lasting change.

“I hope this research has a long-lasting impact, not just on the University community, but across the nation,” he said. “Whether that entails sparking a conversation among peers, policy changes, or further research, I hope this study has opened the eyes of a lot of people. We need to create awareness on the topic so that we may progress forward as a nation.”