By Sarina D. ’19
Josh Chan may only be a high school student, but he is already making a name for himself in the world of cancer research. Over the past year, Josh has been studying the role of socioeconomic status on inflammation levels and cancer morality. Curious about the diagnosis treatment, and prevention of certain cancers from a young age, the Crystal senior jumped at the opportunity to partner with a researcher and zero in on the potential link. But you won’t find Josh in the lab. Instead, he codes through the national health databases and compiles data from participants who have already been interviewed about their health to try to find correlations among this group of participants.
Although he came across several roadblocks along the way, Josh and the team were ultimately able to conclude that lower socioeconomic status correlates to higher inflammation, which in turn signals higher cancer mortality.
“This is particularly problematic because it shows one way in which socioeconomic status can get ‘under the skin’ and drastically affect health outcomes,” Josh told Gryphon Gazette.
Josh even began to wonder about this link while volunteering at a county hospital. He first recognized that many of the patients that were diagnosed with cancers that were hard to treat found themselves sacrificing other necessities like food and housing bills to acquire the treatment they needed. “I realized how unfair this was,” he explained, “but I was also curious as to if their cancers could also be a direct result of their socioeconomic status as well.”
After sifting through data and finding the correlation between lower socioeconomic status and higher inflammation, Josh got the opportunity to present his research at a meeting regarding future steps to bridging health disparities in Honolulu. Though he was one of the youngest participants in the room, the teen recognized that every presenter had their own niche in investigating a unique disparity that they were interested in. He told us, “Having that mindset where it was okay not to understand everyone’s work completely made the experience so much more exciting and enlightening.
But Josh is only starting to fulfill his passions and research goals. And he encourages other curious students to follow in his footsteps. “While partnering with a researcher may seem daunting, I promise that it is much less frightening and much easier to obtain than it seems,” he told us. “Many researchers love seeing high schoolers who have a specific research interest at such a young age, and some may even take you up on your offer to intern under them!”
His final advice? “It only requires one inspiring moment to kickstart your work for years to come.”