Student Explores Reasons for Patients' Repeated Visits to Hospital Emergency Departments

The students in New Rochelle High School’s Science Research Program explore a dazzling range of topics under the mentorship of experts from some of the top institutions of learning and exploration. Students’ projects will regularly be featured in this Newsletter.


Student: Julia Ecker, junior

Mentor: Dr. Alexis Zebrowski, epidemiologist, Mount Sinai


New Rochelle High School student Julia Ecker wanted to participate in the school’s prestigious Science Research Program ever since she saw her older brother participate – and love it.


Influenced by a relative’s background with Parkinson’s, Ecker decided her project would focus on analyzing medical data to determine populations most at risk of being readmitted to hospital emergency departments.


Working in collaboration with her mentor, Ecker analyzed medical records of more than 20,000 dementia patients who visited the Mount Sinai Emergency Department (ED). With this information, which kept patients’ names confidential, she used several statistical tests to find patterns and associations in the data.


“My results found the association between age and likelihood of being admitted to the ED was statistically significant,” said Ecker, “and association between initial complaint of psychological symptoms and being admitted to the ED was also significant.”


With both of these associations, the statistics showed that it was extremely unlikely that the connection was due to random chance rather than a correlation.


Ecker believes the experience of researching with an epidemiology professional will influence her long after high school.


“It has been incredibly exciting to see work I am doing now helping others and directly impacting society for the better,” said Ecker. “In the future, I definitely hope to pursue a higher education in science and to continue to create important connections with leaders and pioneers in the medical field.”


Ecker also noted how inspired she’s been by other students’ projects, which she says is one of her favorite aspects of the program. The program’s director is New Rochelle High School science teacher Jeff Wuebber, and the program is part of the high school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) offerings.


“Mr. Wuebber has been an incredible mentor and guide throughout this process, and I am continuously inspired by the other students in this program, especially all of the girls,” she said. “It truly is a testament [to] our hard work and effort, and I am so excited for young girls’ futures in STEM!”