Our Projects

ConnectMed has a Research Arm (CMIRA) with the goal of implementing research in topics related to our medical, psychosocial or educational work, or participating in such research through collaboration with others. Some of our ongoing research projects are:

We have launched research into the impact of virtual psychosocial outreach through our Camp Cosmos programs.  Preliminary results show success in developing connections and building self-esteem  with this virtual paradigm in the craniofacial community, with benefits across  ethnicities, incomes and age groups. The goal is to optimize virtual and eventually in person health outreach as the research progresses.

Cultural Competency Study 

The ability for healthcare providers to empathize and communicate with people of different cultures is vital to caring for patients. This study looks at the long-term impact of immersive experience and hands-on training in Vietnam on “cultural competency”, which refers to understanding of minority cultures to better and more appropriately provide healthcare services.  

This study is designed around nursing students who have a unique immersive educational experience in Vietnam for a month. The experience includes partnering with Vietnamese nursing students for training and providing hands-on care and disease prevention education in regional hospitals, comune clinics and schools. We have anecdotally heard that these experiences provide skills and new perspectives that change the way the students think about and ultimately practice healthcare. With this multiple year Cultural Competency study, we identify and assess recurring themes and responses that reflect long-term improvements on participants’ cultural competencies and, ultimately, their ability to provide effective care in our diverse patient populations.

Study of “episodic psychosocial encounters” for patients with craniofacial conditions

ConnectMed strives to support the psychosocial health of our patients with congenital and acquired conditions in the long term, especially through Camp Cosmos. Our Camp Cosmos events foster self-acceptance and self-esteem for patients and networking opportunities for their families that, we hope, improve quality of life for that community. 

This study reviews and assesses programs and measures that exist in other locations around the country and world and are intended to improve quality of life, similar to those found at Camp Cosmos.  The objective is to understand what other psychosocial outreach programs exist, how their impact is measured, what works well and what doesn’t….so we can thoughtfully and purposefully provide the most impactful experiences for our own Camp Cosmos participants.

The study found that a variety of quality of life measures have been developed to facilitate the analysis of intervention effectiveness, but these measures provide general results and are not sensitive to the unique experiences and perceptions of children with craniofacial conditions. Social skills training and cognitive behavioral based models can provide the necessary skills for children with craniofacial conditions to overcome negative interpersonal interactions. Peer normalization through community-based interventions, such as those provided at Camp Cosmos programs, further improves the social well-being of families.  Moreover, the development of a gold standard quality of life measure for children with craniofacial conditions is important for future intervention development and analysis. This measure has been developed and is currently being validated by ConnectMed President Dr. Amanda Gosman and her team at UC San Diego School of Medicine (See “Multilingual Quality of Life Survey for Patients with Craniofacial Conditions” below).

Research on “Microbox” Training Tool:  How an iPhone and a shoebox can make critical surgeries more accessible in low-income countries

Did you know that the iPhone and a shoebox can make surgical training more accessible in low-income countries?  Dr. Mohamad Ramadan, a young plastic surgeon from Jakarta, Indonesia, is testing how effective this low-cost and easy to construct combination can be in training residents from low-income countries in microsurgical techniques. 

Microsurgery is critical because it helps patients presenting with trauma, burns, cancer, or congenital defects. It requires the use of magnification technology to better visualize and repair tiny anatomic structures such as blood vessels and nerves. Microsurgeons can do things like: reattach fingers from accidents; rejoin blood vessels and nerves of skin grafts to treat burns; reconstruct breasts after breast removal for the treatment of cancer.  

In many low-income countries, there is a demand for these kinds of surgeries because of the high incidence of, for example, motorcycle accidents on crowded, busy streets, or burns from cooking over open fires or from worn, exposed electrical cords. However, there is a lack of plastic surgeons who typically perform these surgeries.  Worse yet, there are serious barriers to microsurgical training that requires equipment such as sutures, microsurgical instruments and a microsurgical microscope.  By far, the most expensive equipment is the microscope. 

Dr. Ramadan’s research combines the magnification from an iPhone with an aperture cut into a box to simulate the magnification of a microsurgical microscope. With the support of ConnectMed International and UC San Diego Division of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Ramadan is testing the efficacy of this training “box” on surgical residents at UC San Diego, Mexico City, and his home institution in Jakarta.  Initial data indicate that the residents involved would recommend the tool to colleagues, and that it held benefit for microsurgical training in low-income countries.

His abstract on this topic was accepted by the WSSS (World Society for Simulation Surgery Annual Meeting) and he presented his research at this conference in October 2020 to specialists from around the world in conjunction with the ASPS meeting.

Ethical Dilemmas in Global Surgery Faced by Plastic Surgeons

The ethics & global surgery survey is a project that focuses on characterizing ethical dilemmas in a variety of global health settings. Examples of those settings are short term mission trips, long-term clinical partnerships, education/training partnerships, and research partnerships. This project is spearheaded by Dr. Gosman and her partners at ConnectMed and UC San Diego to touch base with international collaborators and get their perspectives about the current global health collaborative climate.

Multilingual Quality of Life Survey for Patients with Craniofacial Conditions

Quality of life (QoL) is a multi-dimensional term that looks at societal, familial, physical, psychological, and appearance impacts. Our partners at UC San Diego are currently creating a questionnaire to better understand the QoL of patients who have craniofacial conditions to better serve them in ways that go beyond the hospital. Additionally, this survey assesses if there is a difference in the patient’s QoL and the parent’s perceived QoL of their child.