Sharpening My Critical Thinking Through A Virtual Experience

Over a person’s lifetime it is essential to develop critical thinking skills, it allows us to come up with effective and creative ideas as well as make important decisions on an infinite number of settings. In academic research it is no different, it is significant to possess the ability to analyze the way you think and present evidence for your ideas, rather than simply accepting your personal reasoning as sufficient proof. As I pursue a career in clinical research, I constantly look for challenges and opportunities that hone my critical thinking skills. I was fortunate enough to be part of this year’s AHA PACER SURE program at Vanderbilt University, which undeniably was an amazing and unforgettable experience that helped me refine my skills and give me the confidence to thrive in my future as a researcher.

This year’s cohort had a virtual research experience due to health and safety threats from the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the program managed to challenge my critical thinking skills over numerous ways. Many of which I would not have experienced if it wasn’t a virtual program. Along with my research group called “The Heart’s Mind” we worked on addressing how mental health contributes to cardiovascular disease and the complexities that underline health disparities through an educational video. I rapidly faced diverse challenges at the start of the program as I experienced poor internet connections, power outages, as well as discomfort and unproductivity due to the lack of workspace in my home. Unfortunately these were situations out of my control, but I still pushed through and found ways around them. 

My critical thinking skills were really challenged when producing our video. We needed to distill primary literature and communicate non-scientific audiences the link between mental and cardiovascular health via visuals and narration. Which sounded easier than it actually was. A lot of critical thinking went to the creation of the video because we needed to communicate this information in a way that a general audience could understand as well as provide specific visuals and animations that improved the effectiveness of the video. Finally, the biggest challenge I faced during the program was the creation of my poster. I struggled a lot to formulate what I wanted to show and communicate through my poster along with what types of analysis I should be doing with my data. Fortunately with a lot of thinking and guidance, my poster focused on communicating if racial and ethnical backgrounds influenced individuals’ perspectives on mental health. 

I am extremely grateful to the Vanderbilt AHA SURE program for the critical thinking skills I gained throughout the program’s online courses, media project, workshops and sessions. This was a phenomenal virtual experience that has given me skills and tools to thrive as I pursue a career in clinical research.

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