David Smith (BA, Economics, ’22), a recent premed graduate of William & Mary, had the unique opportunity to use his research from an independent economics course to present a poster at the 50th annual meeting of the North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) in Phoenix, Arizona. During the November 2022 conference, which was attended by about 875 people from around the world, researchers discussed the latest issues related to primary care as a way to improve and transform the system. Smith’s poster, completed in collaboration with faculty from two Virginia universities, was entitled “The Association of State Telehealth Payment Parity Policy with Telehealth Use, Attitudes, and Practice Health,” and the abstract was printed in The Annals of Family Medicine.
Smith’s research journey began during his senior year at William & Mary while completing a 3-credit independent study in economics with the guidance of his faculty advisor, Jennifer Mellor, Professor of Economics and Director of William & Mary’s Schroeder Center for Health Policy. With the help of Professor Mellor and Rebecca Etz, Professor of Family Medicine and Population Health at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Co-Director of the Larry A. Green Center, Smith examined state telehealth payment parity, which he defines as when states require private insurers to reimburse primary care physicians equally for video and in-person visits. Not all states require equal reimbursement for telehealth visits. Using two of the Green Center’s national surveys of primary care physicians to conduct quantitative analysis, Smith found no significant association “between telehealth payment parity status by state and physician telehealth use.” However, he found, among other things, that primary care physicians were less likely to report severe impacts on their practices from COVID-19 if the states in which they were practicing had telehealth payment parity policies prior to the pandemic.
With the importance of his research and its timely nature, VCU’s Green Center provided funding for Smith to travel to Phoenix to showcase his work by presenting a co-authored poster with Professors Mellor and Etz at the North American Primary Care Research Group’s annual conference. Through his conference participation, Smith gained valuable experience by presenting and answering questions about his research. In addition, he engaged with experts from around the world studying different aspects of primary care research.
When asked about his unique research experience over the last year, Smith responded that he enjoyed “all of it”. He expressed his deep appreciation to Professor Mellor and Professor Etz for “allowing [him] to grow and thrive as a researcher.” The most fun part of the experience, according to Smith, was compiling the research, running the regressions, and understanding “what [he] wanted to say,” so he “could start to write [his] story” -- a story that brought him closer to his educational plans of attending medical school in the Fall and an experience of a lifetime that helped to develop his knowledge and broaden his network, which will serve him well in all his future endeavors.