Research Profile: Marina Reznik, M.D., M.S.

Turning to Research to Change Many At-Risk Lives At Once

Marina ReznikMarina Reznik, M.D.'s journey to providing quality health care for at-risk children in the South Bronx and beyond began in her native Ukraine, as her grandmother lay dying in her arms,  denied care simply because of who she was—not rich, not prominent, and Jewish. 

Today Dr. Reznik is a passionate advocate, clinician and researcher determined to save lives of patients who have major health care challenges because of who they are—not rich, not prominent, and Hispanic or African American.

Only a few months after emigrating to the U.S. with her mother in 1990, she toiled through English as a second language (ESL) classes as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College and earned her medical degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2000, having been selected as a member in the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. Today she teaches and treats patients as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and conducts clinical research studies in her two areas of focus, preventing obesity and asthma—including an American Lung Association-funded pediatric asthma study.

"Coming here for medical school in the Bronx—the epicenter of asthma—was just amazing," Dr. Reznik recalled. "I’ve cared for underserved minority patients since my first day of medical school. Seeing how profound the implications of healthcare disparities are made me realize that I can change patients' lives one at a time, but to have a big impact, I need to do clinical research. Through research, I can help change the lives of many," she said. The Bronx is primarily Hispanic (52 percent) and African-American (43 percent).

Her American Lung Association research project will test if a home-based asthma education intervention, Wee Wheezers, will decrease asthma symptoms and flare-ups among low-income, minority children with persistent asthma in the Bronx. In the Bronx , nearly 25 percent of children  have asthma. Fewer than 50 percent of children with persistent asthma adhere to prescriptions for inhaled corticosteroids—believed to be a major reason for the ongoing asthma problems. After completing home environmental assessments to identify asthma triggers, bilingual Community Health Workers make six one-hour home visits to families. They work individually with each family to teach the basics of asthma and triggers, clear up misunderstandings about inhaled corticosteroids and muscle-building steroids, explain the difference between controller and rescue inhaler medications, and help establish routines that would make it easier for the child to remember to take daily inhaled corticosteroids. While some topics vary per home visit, medication adherence is constant. 

"This is a culturally-sensitive way to deliver asthma education," Dr. Reznik explained.  After experiencing a couple of home visits herself, she was struck by parents' reality. "It's been quite an eye-opening experience to see how people are living. There's so much more than asthma on their minds—trying to make ends meet, work or no work, child care, the parents' own health. They have to choose between having rodents or a cat to keep the mice away, both major triggers of asthma,” she said. “And being an immigrant, I understand how difficult it is to access health care, especially if you don’t speak the language. This research could really help the Bronx community."