Bart Buurman ’25MMS, MPH’s Personal Connection to Capstone Project Fuels Motivation and Inquiry

By Ryan Hiemenz '23 | June 22, 2023
Bart Buurman ’25MMS, MPH presents his Master of Public Health capstone research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health (SPEECH) symposium on health disparities

On May 23, Bart Buurman ’25MMS, MPH presented his Master of Public Health capstone research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health (SPEECH) symposium on health disparities. 

Buurman’s project, titled “A Quantitative Analysis of Colorectal Cancer Screening Patterns by Race and Ethnicity,” examines differential colorectal cancer screening recommendations by providers according to patient race and ethnicity. His research was conducted using the 2008 HINTS national telephone survey, which looked at cancer data from randomly selected individuals. In 2008, the cycle was particularly focused on cancer education in the form of what providers were telling their patients about cancer and cancer preventative behaviors.

“I found that race and ethnicity played a role in the likelihood that providers would recommend patients get any form of screening for colorectal cancer,” said Buurman, “which is recommended for all individuals starting at age 45 to prevent colorectal cancer, a highly deadly form of cancer. In particular, non-Hispanic Black individuals and Hispanic individuals were far less likely to be recommended to get screened for colorectal cancer compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts, even when controlling for access-related factors like income, insurance status, and family history of cancer.”

Buurman’s research reinforces the idea that different health outcomes across different populations are often not due to factors within these groups’ control, which is a key theme in Arcadia’s Public Health program. “I think my project emphasizes that we do not have to be defeatist about this though,” Buurman explained. “Keeping in mind that clinicians are not recommending non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals adequately while practicing can remind readers of my work to be mindful of these differences and contribute positively to remedying these health differences.”

While reflecting on the capstone process as a whole, Buurman recommended that students choose topics that are personal to them. This allows for a deeper motivation to research and discover. He states, “One of the reasons I pursued this project was that I was lucky enough to have very great doctors growing up. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the colon, at a very young age. Thus, I have undergone colonoscopies three times before many have even received one. This experience made me wonder about other people’s experience of that process. I found that the research process being personal to me helped drive me through the six-month Capstone development process. I was excited to keep driving the work forward until the very last day.”

The Fox Chase/SPEECH symposium is held annually with the goal of reducing and eliminating the disparities within cancer treatments and services that affect underserved Black/African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American communities in the Greater Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City region.