Huntington senior Robert Jean-Gilles with his project at the LI Science and Engineering Fair.

H-ton Senior Robert Jean-Gilles Studies Racism in Health Care

Huntington senior Robert Jean-Gilles with his project at the LI Science and Engineering Fair.

March 11, 2019

Robert Jean-Gilles is a deep thinker as well as being a talented performing artist. He can sing, dance, act, play musical instruments and speak intelligently on just about any subject. He earns top grades across every academic discipline. He has been studying the issue of racism in healthcare and recently presented his project at the LI Science and Engineering Fair at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

“The competition itself was a nice experience and all the judges really seemed to enjoy my project,” Mr. Jean-Gilles said. “In my study. I wanted to gain information on how black men felt about racism related stress. I went to our local barbershop, Brothers Barbershop and handed out a survey to all the black male adults. I also gained access to Huntington Hospital’s demographic breakdown for the years 2017 and 2018. The purpose of this procedure was to see how the conversations talked about in the barbershop somehow correlated with the hospital records. The main objective was to get conversations started about mental and physical health in the black community and how racism plays a factor.”

 Huntington High School senior Robert Jean-Gilles.
Huntington High School senior Robert Jean-Gilles.

Mr. Jean-Gilles has participated in the high school’s science research program for many years. This year, he has assumed added responsibilities with teacher Lori Kenny, who leads the recent program.

“Researchers have begun to acknowledge institutionalized racism and how it affects the world of health care,” states an abstract of Mr. Jean-Gilles’ project. “A trope commonly associated with the black community is that blacks do not trust doctors yet there is a reason for this. Studies show that across the board, non-white patients, especially black, are more at risk of not being taken seriously when faced with a medical concern. This medical malpractice has been shown through data throughout history and is supported with new data collected today.”

The survey developed and distributed by Mr. Jean-Gilles sought information about the “perceived mental and physical health” of the black men completing it. The two years of data he obtained from Huntington Hospital “was analyzed for any variations between ethnicities (i.e. duration of stay at hospital, emergency department visits, etc.),” according to the project abstract.

The teenager said the hospital data indicated that black and Asian patients had the longest hospital stays. Survey results showed that 50 percent of participants expressed the belief they are affected by “racism related stress.”

“Opening up conversations on this issue is important to achieve racial equality for everyone in all aspects of life,” Mr. Jean-Gilles said. “The hypothesis of the study is if data is compiled from hospital records and survey answers related to black male health, then the public will be more aware of this subject, which is how black men are affected by racism in healthcare.”

The judges at the LISEF competition were intrigued by Mr. Jean-Gilles’ project and by the presentation of his research findings.