Maria Latta completes first UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship

Maria Latta
Maria Latta presents her findings.

The UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship is a relatively new funding program that provides support to undergraduate students who are completing self-designed projects that have a public engagement, social impact, or innovation component. Maria Latta ’20 (Pharmacy Studies, PHR) is one of the first group of four students to take advantage of fellowship opportunity. Her project, Cultural Influences on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Decision Making completed this past summer.

Graphic from Maria Latta's presentation on Traditional Chinese Medicine
Presentation graphic.

Nathaniel Rickles, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Latta’s advisor, says “Ms. Latta took much initiative in deciding to do her Legacy Fellowship research project investigating how cultural and other factors impact decisions to use TCM.  Her passions for this research enabled her to develop a comprehensive survey based on a robust literature search that examined past empirical studies about TCM use and identified Andersen’s Model of Healthcare Utilization as a theoretical basis for her proposed hypotheses.”

According to Rickles, Latta’s 627 respondents, obtained through Amazon Mechanical Turk,  yielded important findings:

  1.  an individual’s network and how others in the network view TCM were critical factors affecting decisions to use TCM across mental and physical health problems, and
  2. there are different sets of psychosocial and cultural factors that affect an individual’s decision to use TCM to treat a mental health vs. a physical health problem.

Maria Latta, pharmacy student, presents her TCM finding'sgs

While Rickles says there need to be larger studies of the topic, this is the first known work to identify how different individual, interpersonal, environmental and cultural factors interact to influence decisions to use TCM given different types of health conditions.

“This work will be great first steps in Ms. Latta’s efforts to help her pharmacy colleagues reach a deeper understanding of the importance of collecting a patient’s social and cultural history and how such experiences and networks impact patient decisions to use or not use certain medicines for certain conditions,” continued Rickles.  “Latta’s data further highlights how treatment recommendations may need to be tailored given an individuals’ networks and cultural experiences.”