A research study by, for, and about UIC health professions students

UIC students and faculty team up to study demographics, health risk factors and behaviors, and other factors for health professional students.


A research study by, for, and about UIC health professions students is seeking AHS students to participate in an online survey about student health and health behaviors.

The HOLISTIC study (Health Professional Students at the University of Illinois Chicago Cohort), is a longitudinal research project to follow a total of 1,000 UIC students from the seven health sciences colleges over several years.

The three-year study was developed by a team of 12 students, including Ethan Rocha ’22 DPT, who helped start the project two years ago with medical student Sunil Dommaraju. Ayesha Mohammad ’20 BS NUT and Alexandra Seballaros ’21 BS KINES were also in the original research group.

The team works under the mentorship of Mary Keehn, AHS associate dean for clinical affairs and assistant vice chancellor for interprofessional practice and education; Rashid Ahmed, associate dean of academic affairs at the School of Public Health; and Jerry Krishnan, associate vice chancellor for population health sciences and professor of medicine and public health.

“This is really about establishing a way of following students from the time they enter UIC through their education, so we have a better understanding of their health and health behaviors,” Keehn said.

The study strives for diversity, not only in the demographics of the participants but in the different clinical and nonclinical programs in which they are enrolled.

“The big thing was hearing what each student from each college finds valuable and important when we were developing the study,” Rocha said. “For example, occupational therapy students wanted to make sure the study was accessible to students with physical or cognitive disabilities.

“Depending on your health view and education, what you find important is unique. Listening to those perspectives is eye-opening.”

The student researchers developed the survey using tools from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, adapted for health professions students.

The survey, which takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete, has questions about demographics, employment, race, income and housing, as well as health status, health-related behaviors, chronic health conditions, mental health and access to health care. Students are also asked about tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use, as well as exercise, diet, immunizations and adverse childhood experiences. The first cohort was asked about attitudes around COVID-19 vaccination.

The study, which began enrolling participants in spring 2021, is being conducted in three recruitment phases. Deadline to complete the survey for the second phase is April 18.

Initial findings from the first group of 553 students appear as an online preprint in medRxiv.

The study results will be useful for a wide range of research studies. It will also help student affairs staff improve programs that support student health and well-being, Keehn said.

“I think one of the benefits of this project is having students understand that how their educational experience impacts their health and health behaviors, and how it is similar, or different, across the health professions,” she said.

For more information on joining the HOLISTIC research team, email HOLISTIC@uic.edu or contact Keehn.