Spencer Cooper-Ohm

Spencer Cooper-Ohm, Undergraduate student, English, Economics

Tracks the opioid epidemic

“Spencer is working on a very comprehensive research project studying the impacts of state naloxone access and Good Samaritan drug overdose laws on various outcomes related to the opioid epidemic, including overdose-induced mortality and emergency room visits, misuse of various opioids, and opioid-related crime, using data from the CDC, AHRQ, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, FBI, and Google trends.” – Jeff DeSimone, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics

Hometown: Council Bluffs, Iowa
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Jeffrey DeSimone
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in Economics and English on the Pre-Law track, and plan to graduate in Spring of 2024
Please describe your research: My research focuses on finding the long-term effect of U.S. laws that provide access to Naloxone (the lifesaving emergency opioid treatment) on opioid-overdose related deaths. It involves refining overdose mortality models created by previous research projects and adding several new variables and years of data to attempt to capture the impact of a recent increase in Fentanyl prevalence in relation to Naloxone access.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? All 50 states have passed some form of Naloxone Access Law over the past twelve years, which corresponds with a massive nationwide spike in opioid-overdose deaths. Studying the effect of these laws verifies that they actually save lives amid rising opioid overdoses instead of contributing to the spike by providing a false sense of safety to people who use drugs, and helps determine the most effective harm prevention policies moving forward.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to start undergraduate research the summer after my freshman year. My professor reached out with the offer after spring semester, and I was happy to accept!
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Since starting research at Iowa, I’ve begun to understand the thought process and steps that go into effective research. This has helped me in classes where I need to analyze or summarize research, because I now understand the underlying principles that guide a paper. I’ve been able to connect more with my professors and finally appreciate the hundreds of other research projects going on at the University.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
I hope to attend law school and become a trial attorney.

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