Project: Pennsylvania Health Atlas
Faculty: Amy Wolaver (Economics)
Students: Michael McGowan (Biology ’14), Noelle Watters (Mathematics ’16), Jon Walls (Accounting/Finance ’16)
DP&S Liaison: Janine Glathar
Date: Fall 2012-Present
In fall 2012, Prof. Amy Wolaver (Economics) consulted with GIS Specialist Janine Glathar on developing a web-based atlas on healthcare economics in PA. Wolaver received Mellon GIS funding to purchase inpatient hospitalization data from the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). In 2012-13, Wolaver and Glathar worked with a library-funded GIS student assistant, Darin Rockwell (Geology ’13) to begin mapping & analyzing the data. In summer 2013, Wolaver received Mellon funding to develop a prototype atlas that would also serve as a learning module for the 1st year students in the Society & Technology Residential College.
Prior to this research/course integration, Prof. Wolaver had taken a Mellon-funded GIS workshop. Neither of the student researchers chosen to work on the project, Michael McGowan (Biology ’14) and Noelle Watters (Mathematics ’16), had prior experience with GIS or statistical analysis. Student work split into three clearly-delineated phases that unfolded across a roughly 10 week research period (summer-early fall 2013):
- Statistical Analysis – STATA/Data Management boot camp with Prof. Wolaver + work sessions with Wolaver to choose and calculate variables from PHC4 dataset
- GIS Visualization – ArcGIS Virtual Campus & weekly work sessions with Glathar to map output tables from STATA and visualize map layers
- Publication & Presentation – work with GIS Specialist to publish map services and create the web maps and data dictionary needed for RESC098 assignment. RESC098 materials were shared in a Map Gallery and accessible via a public-facing website.
Once they received their initial training, the students served as technical experts on the project. Other roles on the project were delineated as follows:
Prof. Wolaver – frame research agenda, provide raw data for analysis, teach and supervise students in statistical analysis, write course materials for RESC098
Student researchers – (1) develop expertise in data management, statistical analysis and GIS mapping and visualization; (2) apply technical expertise to a pre-existing dataset; and (3) create presentation-ready materials
GIS Specialist – design web-based map module to meet assignment requirements; train and supervise student researchers on applying GIS methods
The maps in this gallery were created for use in an in-class assignment for Bucknell’s Fall 2013 RESC098 class, ‘The Future is Now.’ The class is a foundation seminar for first-year students living in Bucknell’s Society & Technology Residential College and explores how technology affects our everyday lives. Prior to the assignment, Prof. Wolaver delivered a lecture to the class with background and context info students would need to have to connect the data in the maps to their readings from a class text, “Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest to Understand Healthcare,” by Dr. John Wennberg. The assignment was designed to prompt students to think critically about the decisions (made by their peers who worked on the summer research project) that went into crafting the variables shown in their map – and to think spatially about the dynamics of health care provision in Pennsylvania and how this might relate to sustainability of the healthcare system.
Once students completed the assignment, they presented their findings to the group and participated in a class discussion focused on spatial allocation of healthcare. In fall 2013, student researcher Jon Walls (Accounting/Finance ’16) joined the project and has continued to calculate and map additional variables from the PHC4 database. Jon and the other student researchers who worked on the project in summer 2014, 2015 and 2016 have presented at several local and regional conferences, sometimes using web map apps in lieu of printed posters