OXFORD, Mississippi – Ann Irvin Armstrong, master’s student in food and nutritional services from Jackson, recently won gold for the master’s level category in the three-minute thesis competition at the University of Mississippi.
This annual competition asks graduate students to submit a compelling, pre-recorded explanation of their research thesis topic and its significance in just three minutes. They are only allowed to use one PowerPoint slide.
Armstrong’s research stems from a Critical Thinking Reshaping Grant received by his Principal Professor, Nadeeja Wijayatunga, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hotel Management and Director of the Nutrition and Obesity Research Lab, or NORA. The project examines the effects of ageism on the delivery and quality of health care.
âI hope our research will raise awareness of the discrimination that the elderly community faces, not only in the healthcare system, but in all aspects of daily life,â said Armstrong. âI hope people are more aware of what ageism is and its negative effects on the health and well-being of older people.
âI hope our research will reduce ageism and its detrimental effects on the elderly population. Taking care of all members of the community means providing the best care for the elderly in our community, so I hope that our research inspires a change in the way elderly people are most often treated in our society.
Wijayatunga got the grant through the quality improvement program of the Center of Excellence for Teaching and Learning at UM to improve one of the lessons of a course she teaches to improve critical thinking.
âMy main area of ââresearch is studying the biobehavioural aspects of obesity and unhealthy thinness,â Wijayatunga said. âAnother area is studying the stigma associated with weight in health care.
“Ageism is a new area of ââresearch for me, so by adding it to research on weight bias, I think I can say that I am expanding my research by studying different biases and educational interventions to reduce bias in weight bias. health care.”
The research team’s goal was to reduce ageism in students who will one day become nutrition professionals or work in health care. Wijayatunga designed the intervention to focus on identifying implicit and explicit biases against population aging.
This is a collaborative study with Teresa Carithers, Acting Chair of the Department of Applied Gerontology and Professor of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, and Joseph Wellman, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology. Wijayatunga salutes Armstrong’s dedication and work in conducting the study and further acknowledges his doctorate. NORA lab student Michael Hays, who also helped with the study.
Armstrong highlighted the research at the recent 3MT competition, where she presented “Effectiveness of an Educational Intervention in Reducing Ageism in Undergraduates in an Entry-Level Nutrition Course.” She addressed the research question: “Does an online ageism educational intervention reduce ageism in undergraduate nutrition students?” “
The researchers have already administered the pre-survey, a 20-minute online educational intervention, an immediate post-survey, and a two-week post-survey, and they expect ageism to decrease in the group. intervention.
âAgeism is very prevalent both in the general population and among healthcare workers,â Wijayatunga said. âIn addition, ageism has increased during the pandemic. All healthcare workers should have cultural skills and knowledge about working with older people. “
Educating future healthcare workers about ageism should help because most people may not know it, Wijayatunga said, noting that she had heard of the problem before starting this study. Wijayatunga worked as a doctor in Sri Lanka before joining academia, and she hopes this research and classroom efforts will make a difference in the lives of older people.
âI taught the same educational content in my NHM 311 class separately from the research study,â Wijayatunga said. âI was very happy to see that many students in my class acknowledged that this was the first time they had heard about ageism and how learning about it changed their focus. vue, and that they will try not to be biased.
âSome even said they would oppose it if it happened in their workplace. This made it possible to achieve the goal of the PEQ grant, as reducing bias is important for student learning. So I look forward to analyzing the results of the study.
The study is of great relevance because the country’s aging population will outnumber its younger counterparts in 2026. This means that by 2030, 1 in 5 Americans is expected to be 65 and over.
âFor me winning this competition means I can do whatever I’m determined to do,â Armstrong said. âIt means I can really accomplish great things, even if they seem out of reach.
âIt means that all of the hard work that Dr Wijayatunga and I put into this research study has been recognized. I am so honored that my presentation was chosen as one of the winners and that the public is interested in knowing more about the research we are conducting.
For more information on the MA program in Food and Nutrition at UM, visit https://nhm.olemiss.edu/ or email Yunhee Chang at [email protected]