Undergraduate research experience ‘supplies’ success for Former Student

Former liberal arts student Catherine Marr’s experience as an undergraduate research assistant led to an unexpected career field. Over a span of three years, Marr worked hands-on with a project aimed at enhancing communication between doctors and patients. Little did she know how much this would play into her career.

Marr was given the task of coding recorded interactions of doctors and patients, looking especially for the frequency of certain phrases, affirmative statements, and expressions of concern used. After compiling the data, it was analyzed by Professor and Head of Communication Rick Street and utilized by other researchers in the field of healthcare communications.

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in communication in May 2009, Catherine Marr began working as a Sales Consultant for Physician Sales and Service, the largest supplier of medical products to the Physician market.

Because of her work with Dr. Street, Marr developed a strong appreciation for doctors and their passions for patient health. Now, she sees her present job as being “much more than just selling needles, syringes, table paper and gloves. I also try to help my doctors improve their level of patient care.”

“Honestly, I did not know much about patient care prior to this project. It was an interesting study especially since I was a communication major and it forced me to look deeper into the conversations between a doctor and a patient. What I did not anticipate was how I would use that knowledge and apply it to my job today,” says Marr.

“During these changing financial times, I am constantly bringing up new methods for the doctor to increase revenue. It is important for me to remember why I do all of these things. It is all to improve patient care,” Marr asserts.

Currently some insurance corporations are bundling healthcare services – a pricing system that sometimes hurts physicians who send samples to outside laboratories for tests. This leads to increased costs for physicians and patients alike.

“What I try to emphasize is the value of in-house labs. I do this by stressing ways for doctors to get immediate answers on test results, so the patient walks out of their visit with quantitative results, instead of a three-day turnaround from an outside lab. My reasoning is to increase one-on-one time between the doctor and the patient.”

With in-house labs and advancing technologies, doctors are able to get the results out to their patients the same day, which increases the quality of communication between the parties, decreases costs for healthcare providers, and saves patients the nuisance of waiting long periods for results.

Marr recalls the value of her undergraduate research experiences as preparing her for her job in a number of ways. She realized later that her role as a research coder had prepared her to manage her time efficiently when working independently.

“Because most of my work was done alone, I learned how to manage a large project on my own. This has helped me because in the sales world, what I do with my time will inevitably be reflected in my numbers,” says Marr. Beyond practical skills such as time management, Marr gained insight into the healthcare industry as a whole.

“This job was also educational for me because I learned about hypertension, common blood thinner medications (such as Coumadin), and symptoms that came along with many disorders. This has been beneficial for me because I now service several Internal medicine clinics with patients with some of the same issues” reports Marr.

Most importantly, however, is the respect she gained for the importance of doctor-patient communication.

“I regularly recall conversations I listened to between doctors and patients, what they sounded like, and the responsibility those doctors had for each one of their patients. It always brings me back to the purpose of my job. I work to make their lives easier, so they can take care of each patient according to their individual needs.”

Story courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts

Contact: Alecia Beriswill, aberiswill89@libarts.tamu.edu, 979.862.8019

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