Crystal Chidume

DRIVE in Research Pilot Program Participant

Crystal Chidume

Working with Associate Professor of Pediatrics Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH, was an easy choice for DRIVE student Crystal Chidume. Crystal is a junior majoring in symbolic systems, and she’s especially interested in child health equity and nutrition.

For years, Dr. Patel has been working on a project called Water First, which provides water stations and reusable water bottles to low-resource elementary schools coupled with water promotion activities to promote healthy beverage habits and reduce childhood obesity. In 2018, Dr. Patel received an MCHRI Faculty Scholar award to study the cost effectiveness of the intervention. Equipped with three years’ worth of data from 26 low-resource elementary schools, Crystal teamed up with a Stanford medical student, Nathaniel (Nate) Porter, to tease out specific costs associated with water station installation, intervention promotion, and facilities labor.

By analyzing data from classes of fourth graders who had access to water stations, received reusable water bottles and prizes, and participated in water promotion lessons and family engagement activities, Crystal and Nate determined the cost per student was about $50. The one-time, initial cost of purchasing and installing the stations accounted for the largest portion of the overall expense. These findings are immediately significant, says Dr. Patel, because many schools want to install water bottle stations after COVID forced traditional water fountains out of use.  

What are your main takeaways about the research process after participating in the DRIVE Program?

Crystal: I learned a lot about what it takes to have data that you can analyze. The biggest thing is the uncertainty in the data that you collect. You can rely on, to a certain extent, that people will understand the questions on the survey and enter responses that are going to be usable. But in a lot of the cases that we saw, it was like somebody misinterpreted the survey prompt, or where there were only supposed to be numerical entries, there were words.

There are decisions to make on how to approach those inconsistencies and responses. Working with Nate and having another opinion on how to approach the data cleaning process was very useful.

What would you tell students who are interested in applying to the DRIVE Program?

Crystal: You don't have to have your future figured out. You don't have to want to be a doctor and a researcher, but I was at least curious in what it would be like to practice and do research. Getting a little snippet of the different projects Anisha’s managing all at once—the amount of knowledge that she has in her head is unbelievable. And then she's also going into clinic and treating patients—it's a great thing to be a witness to.

The DRIVE Program is an opportunity to experience things that you haven't experienced before, and take away skills that will help you in your career and for forever.

Mentor perspective

Dr. Patel: I am so thrilled that there is funding associated with the DRIVE Program. When I was in college, like many of my peers, I worked. I didn't have the opportunity to participate in programs like DRIVE during the summer. I think that the fact that MCHRI provides adequate funding to support the students so they can actually participate in research is just phenomenal.


Laura Hedli is a writer for the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and contributes stories to the Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute.