My name is Stephanie Kha, and I am a proud Biochemistry Major at the University of Arizona. In Summer 2014 I had the opportunity to fly to the hustling, bustling city of London, England. Many people raise their eyebrows when they find out that I travelled abroad as a Biochemistry Major. This major is indeed academically rigorous, research-oriented, and time-intensive. However, with support and careful planning, anything is possible.
I travelled to London to pursue a study-abroad program at the University of Westminster, and I also conducted an independent research study on a topic that I am very passionate about - supportive cancer care for patients and caregivers. Specifically, I researched the different models of accommodation and patient housing in London provided to cancer patients and their caregivers when they travel to a cancer facility for treatment. As a student researcher under Dr. David Alberts, the Director Emeritus of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, I learned that in the United States, there is a significant need to develop more housing and accommodation, especially for patients who must travel great distances to receive cancer treatment. Along with this growing effort to develop more housing is the need for a model that provides the best supportive atmosphere at an affordable cost to help reduce the stress and burdens placed upon patients and their families.
To support this research endeavor in London, I was awarded two generous grants from the Honors College at the University of Arizona and the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. My research proposal compared patient housing models in the United States and the United Kingdom - two countries that differ greatly in the system of healthcare, but share a common need for supportive and affordable patient accommodation. Through on-site visits, staff and patient interviews, survey statistics, and background research, I examined how the healthcare system influences the variety of accommodation models developed to support cancer patients and their caregivers. This preliminary study is a comparative analysis of six patient housing facilities (three located in the US, three located in the UK) that provides insight into the most important features of a patient housing model: the facility’s environment and atmosphere, patient eligibility requirements, private and community resources offered, and financial support system. Understanding the differences in these housing facilities on a global scale can help bring together the best available resources to develop an accommodation model that alleviates the emotional and financial burdens of cancer on patients and their caregivers.
I am especially appreciative of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arizona, because my advisors and professors here continue to encourage and support my passions and research interests without limits. My experience as a Biochemistry Major is truly interdisciplinary and enriching, and most importantly, it demonstrates that learning takes place inside and outside the classroom - and sometimes even outside the country.