• Bengucan Gunen, MSPH

    2024 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship
    Bengucan Gunen, MSPH

    Bengucan Gunen, MSPH

    2024 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

    Institution: Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health

    Project Title: Addressing Disparities in Renal Diet Adherence: Leveraging Social Support to Improve Dietary Behaviors among End-Stage Kidney Disease Patients with Obesity

    How would you sum up your overall research focus in one sentence?

    Overall, my research focuses on using social and behavioral science methodologies to understand how we can promote healthier and culturally appropriate diets to prevent chronic disease and obesity, and improve their management.

    Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.

    End stage kidney disease patients receiving hemodialysis treatment are advised to monitor their dietary intake and adhere to strict dietary guidelines. End stage kidney disease patients with obesity are uniquely motivated to lose weight, as having a healthy body mass index is one of the eligibility criteria for kidney transplantation. Diet, weight management, and obesity are complex issues with physiological, social, and behavioral dimensions. The research I will conduct with help from the American Society of Nephrology's Pre-Doctoral Fellowship grant will allow me to study which type and sources of social support can help patients with renal diet adherence.

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    When I began my PhD program at Drexel University in 2020, I started working as a Research Assistant for an NIDDK-funded R01 project, which investigates healthy versus high-risk weight loss patterns among end stage kidney disease patients with obesity. This work allowed me to conduct in-depth interviews with patients in 22 different states and led me to visit numerous dialysis facilities in Philadelphia. Interacting with our participants showed me what it is like to live with end stage kidney disease and inspired me to relay their experiences to a wider audience through my research.

    What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

    I hope that my research will provide a better understanding of how healthcare providers can better assist hemodialysis patients; so that patients can receive more personalized advice. I will be using a participatory methodology called Photovoice, which will ask patients to take photographs from their daily lives as they navigate the intricacies of adhering to a renal diet.

    What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?

    My career goals by the end of the grant period include disseminating the findings from my dissertation research, publishing manuscripts from my involvement with other studies prior to receiving this award, and finishing my PhD program. Within the next five years, I plan to complete postdoctoral training programs where I can focus on interventions promoting healthy diets to adults with obesity and chronic diseases, and socially isolated older adults. Ten years from now, I would like to expand my research to different settings and populations.

    What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?

    Do not be afraid to apply if you only recently started working on kidney-related research, or if you are not a clinical/laboratory scientist! When I first started my PhD program, I did not have an in-depth understanding of end stage kidney disease. I had to inform myself of the self-management strategies, treatments, and adverse health outcomes associated with this disease to begin generating research questions that could be answered using my skills as a public health researcher.

    Something you may not know about me is . . .

    I got my first introduction to research when I was 18, volunteering in a biology lab. I eventually changed my major to public health when I was a sophomore in college. I love that public health research gives me the opportunity to listen to people's stories and lived experiences.

    In my free time I like to…

    bake, visit flea markets, go to music shows, and take long walks by the river.

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