Students Who Rocked Public Health 2019

Students of Public Health: Voices & Profiles focuses on research projects and other contributions students are making to advance public health.

Students Who Rocked 2019

New Format

This year, we’re changing our format for the Students Who Rocked Public Health series. In years past, we have featured a variety of students individually throughout the year, culminating in December with a round-up of students whose work we felt captured some of the public health moments of the previous 12 months.

For 2019, we’ve decided to list the Students Who Rocked Public Health this year (as well as an impressive list of honorable mentions) and then follow up with more in-depth profiles of each winner throughout 2020. 

About SWRPH 2019

Nominees were evaluated on timeliness and urgency of the public health issue addressed, level of success achieved, overall impact of the project, and level of inclusiveness and diversity. We received a record number of nominations, thanks to assistance from ASPPH and the de Beaumont Foundation for helping us spread the word, which made it ever more difficult to make selections. Competition was high with projects aimed to research or mitigate a wide range of important public health issues. However, the editors felt that the most timely and urgent projects of 2019 were those that addressed climate change, barriers to vaccine uptake, vaping and opioids, interventions aimed at social determinants of health, barriers and facilitators to mental health services among disadvantaged communities, disparities in preventable deaths due to pregnancy complications for women of color in tribal communities, negative effects of pesticides on pregnant women, uptake of HIV self-testing and contraception, the impact of wildfire-associated air pollution on skin and respiratory health, pediatric patients with persistent opioid medication and the impact of medical cannabis policies on the prevalence of opioid use disorder, and recruiting and retaining public health nurses.

Honorable mentions include projects providing social support and medication adherence in urban slums in India; developing a framework for the promotion of mental well-being in early childhood; addressing food insecurity and housing issues among Georgia Southern University students and throughout Savannah/Chatham County, GA; decreasing emergency department overcrowding and improving patient flow at UNC hospitals in Chapel Hill, NC; addressing root causes of hunger in Rochester, NY; researching the impact of school-based health centers on ethnic minority students who are particularly vulnerable to academic struggles and poor health outcomes; expanding the reach of an oral health screening/education program for schoolchildren in Cambridge, MA; developing a health risk tool to improve hospital readmission rates and reduce the cost of care by reducing inpatient hospitalizations and emergency department visits; planning Wayne State University’s Community Engaged Research Symposium, a one-and-a-half-day conference on cancer and cardiovascular disease with a focus on engaging people of color and sexual and gender minorities in research and health advocacy; researching the social context of summer care programs and how they may impact physical activity behaviors in adolescents across a summer; researching glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) to reduce exposure levels in vulnerable populations; developing a community-based diabetes management program among the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese population; and assisting the Missouri DOH with its healthcare billing discharge dataset, shepherding data through the ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM coding transition, and reporting nonfatal opioid overdose information to the CDC.

“This is an amazing collection of emerging professionals,” said Justin B. Moore, PhD, Associate Editor of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. “The passion, commitment, and creativity of our honorees is remarkable. I cannot wait to see how they will contribute to the profession in the future.”

Students Who Rocked Public Health 2019

We’re thrilled to announce this list of Students Who Rocked Public Health in 2019 (appearing alphabetically):

  • Jennifer (Jen) Bender (MPH ’21) – Des Moines University. OPIOID AND VAPING FORUM PROVIDED FOR COMMUNITY EDUCATION BY LOCAL EXPERTS. Jennifer Bender, MPH student at Des Moines University helped lead a collaboration between her hospital employer, Human Service Agency, and Boys & Girls Club to provide community education on drug misuse. The forum included a vaping presentation by a pulmonologist, a testimonial on recovery from an opioid substance misuse disorder, and a Q&A session with a panel of local experts, including a drug court judge, pain therapy specialist, law enforcement, pharmacist, and mental health counselors. Learn More: Two Truths & A Lie (Vaping and Opioids) event on Facebook
  • Debjyoti Datta (MPH ’20) and Shivani Rathi (MPH ’20) – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. MOUNT SINAI’S GLOBAL SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROJECT WITH TRANSGENDERS IN INDIA. Under the guidance of Dr Jan-Schuetz-Muller, team leaders Debjyoti Datta and Shivani Rathi worked with the ‘hijra’ community in Gujarat India to evaluate their knowledge on mental health and their accessibility to care. They also determined the changes within and without the transgender community, pre-and-post the 2014 NALSA judgement, giving them basic civil rights. A short film based on the personal narratives of the ‘Hijras’ showcases their struggles and the resilience to overcome all odds.
  • Lauren Hunter (PhD ’21) – University of California, Berkeley. DOCTORAL STUDENT DESIGNS PRIVATE DRUG SHOPS TO REACH YOUNG WOMEN WITH HEALTH SERVICES. Guided by Drs. Sandra McCoy and Jenny Liu, Lauren Hunter’s research focused on how adolescent girls and young women could access sexual and reproductive health services at private drug shops in Tanzania. She led an innovative design process in collaboration with US- and Tanzania-based researchers to create a girl-friendly loyalty program, the “Queen Club,” through which young women can earn mystery prizes during visits to drug shops and can discreetly request health products, such as HIV self-test kits, condoms, and oral contraception, by pointing to symbols on the back of the loyalty card. She evaluated the intervention through a randomized trial in 20 drug shops, finding substantially higher distribution of HIV self-testing and contraception to young women at intervention shops.
  • Kyungha (Katie) Kim (DrPH ’21) – Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences. DOCTORAL STUDENT INVESTIGATES EFFECTS OF MEDICAL CANNABIS LEGALIZATION ON OPIOID-RELATED BEHAVIORS. The opioid crisis is a serious public health issue in the United States, and opioid overdose is one of the main drivers of all accidental deaths. As an effort to identify strategies for effectively addressing this epidemic, Kyungha (Katie) Kim, a Doctor of Public Health candidate at Penn State College of Medicine, is exploring populations at high risk for opioid overdose and options for preventing opioid-related problems through alternative medications for management of severe pain. See also: Dr. Douglas Leslie.
  • Sonia Lazreg (MPH ’20) – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. DIABETIC AND HYPERTENSIVE PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS AMONG NATIVE AMERICANS IN ZUNI, NEW MEXICO. Graduate student Sonia Lazreg collaborated with providers, the Zuni Tribal Council, and the Zuni Comprehensive Community Health Center Hospital Executive Committee to perform a retroactive chart review and calculate rates of diabetic and hypertensive pregnancy complications among the community Native American women served. This contribution promotes greater representation of this underserved population within the trend of increasing pregnancy complications in the US and is the basis of developing interventions to decrease disparities and preventable disease.
  • Aubrey Massman (DO ’21/MPH ’23) – Des Moines University. MEDICAL STUDENT CONTRIBUTES TO FEDERAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH RESEARCH. While working with the United States Global Change Research Program, Aubrey worked on a team to analyze health outcome indicators related to climate change, creating a catalogue of indicators for public and agency use. Aubrey also assisted in the creation of the Climate and Health Monitoring Outlook, a forecasting tool utilizing sophisticated predictive modeling to anticipate changes in the incidence of climate-sensitive infectious diseases using seasonal weather data. She continues to work on these projects as they take shape within the agency.
  • Pooja Sangha (BS ’19) – Arizona State University. TRENDS IN ARIZONA SCHOOL-LEVEL VACCINATION RATES FROM 2015 TO 2018. Under the direction of Mac McCullough, Pooja Sangha evaluated Arizona school-level vaccination data from 2015 to 2018. This analysis identified upward trends in vaccine exemption rates and downward trends in herd immunity statewide. More specifically, these results demonstrate an increased rate of personal belief exemptions and decreased herd immunity across all school types (public, private, and charter). This research may have several policy implications, especially for states permitting multiple vaccine exemption types.
  • Jaimee Lee Watts (DNP ’20 and MPH ’21) – University of North Carolina at Greensboro. DOCTORAL NURSING STUDENT GOES TO THE SOURCE TO UNDERSTAND PHN RETENTION NEEDS IN HER STATE. Jaimee Watts is collaborating with the NC DHHS Division of Public Health to complete the first phase of a multiphase project to identify and address issues surrounding retention and recruitment of public health nurses (PHNs) in NC local public health departments. With an advisory panel of practice and academic nursing experts, Jaimee was able to initiate an extensive statewide survey of frontline nurses and collect information related to retention and job satisfaction.   

 Stay tuned for in-depth profiles of each winning project throughout 2020.

Honorable Mentions

We would also like to recognize the following remarkable 2019 SWRPH Honorable Mentions:

  • Nirmal Ashok Ahuja (DrPH ’20) – Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine. SOCIAL SUPPORT: A KEY FACILITATOR FOR TUBERCULOSIS MEDICATION ADHERENCE. Life of tuberculosis patients living in developing world is all about their struggle with 3 Ps – Poverty, Pain (physical & psychological) & Pills. These 3 Ps are also the major contributors towards non-adherence to tuberculosis medications. With an objective to address this issue of non-adherence, a graduate student from Pennsylvania State University aims to comprehensively explore the relationship between social support and medication adherence among adult tuberculosis patients in urban slums of Mumbai, India. 
  • Jane Carpenter (MPH ’20) – Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ADVANCING A CITYWIDE INITIATIVE TO PROMOTE CHILDREN’S MENTAL WELL-BEING. Jane Carpenter, an MPH student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spent the summer of 2019 working with the Health Subcommittee of the Cambridge Birth to 3rd Grade Partnership. In collaboration with Josefine Wendel, Neal Michaels, and Lei-Anne Ellis, Jane developed a framework for the promotion of mental well-being in early childhood. The framework is based on the social-ecological model of health promotion and thus includes factors at multiple levels including family/social environment, community, and society.
  • Christina S. Cook (MPH ’19) – Georgia Southern University. WORKING TOWARD HEALTH AND BASIC NEEDS EQUITY AMONG UNIVERSITY STUDENTS. Graduate student, Christina S. Cook, from the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University is addressing health equity by increasing access to basic needs—such as safe housing and food—for university students and other communities. Alongside Drs. Nandi A. Marshall, Dziyana Nazaruk, Jeffery A. Jones, and Sara S. Plaspohl, Christina is finding methods to increase food and housing security for students at Georgia Southern University while reducing food waste. Learn More: Dr. Nandi A. Marshall biography, The Captain’s Cupboard.
  • Jennifer Dawson (MPH ’19) – Liberty University. IMPROVING ED TO ED TRANSFERS FROM OUTSIDE HOSPITALS. Jennifer Dawson, a graduate student from Liberty University College of Public Health, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Scholer, Associate Professor, UNC Department of Emergency Medicine, developed and implemented a new program to help improve ED overcrowding by identifying a process in which patients at rural community hospitals, or critical access hospitals, could receive more time appropriate transfers to a tertiary care facility to receive medical care not available at the community hospital. The Emergency Medical Access Provider (EMAP) program was developed to help expedite acceptance of patients to UNC for higher level and life-saving care.
  • Aubree Jones (MPH/MSW  ’20) – University at Buffalo. FOODBANK ANALYZES ROOT CAUSES AND UNDERLYING CONDITIONS OF HUNGER. Foodlink of Rochester, New York, aims to end hunger by fighting against poverty, advancing access to food as a human right, and mobilizing communities to eradicate symptoms and root causes of hunger. Data from focus groups was analyzed to help in the development of a policy advocacy plan to better inform lawmakers as they address food insecurity. This led to a more in-depth understanding of poverty as a determinant of food access.
  • Valerie E. Kimbrough (MPH ’19/MHA ’20) and Nicholas Mallis (MPH ’19/PhD ’23) – University of Georgia. REDUCING BARRIERS TO CARE THROUGH NORTHEAST GEORGIA’S FIRST SCHOOL-BASED HEALTH CENTER. Graduate students from the University of Georgia College of Public Health contributed to Northeast Georgia’s first School-Based Health Center. Under the direction of professor Justin Ingels, students Shellie Bardgett, Michael Bien, Valerie Kimbrough, and Nicholas Mallis partnered with the Clarke County School District Task Force to deliver a project designed to broaden their understanding of the current health needs of students in Athens, Georgia, while improving educational and health-related outcomes for local students through a School-Based Health Center. To achieve this, they collaborated with a diverse set of key stakeholders, analyzed surveys administered to parents and students, evaluated the SBHC model, and engaged teachers and SBHC experts.
  • Sitara Mahtani (MPH ’20) – Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. GRADUATE STUDENT ENHANCES ORAL HEALTH PROGRAM FOR CAMBRIDGE STUDENTS. Sitara Mahtani, MPH candidate at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, worked with Healthy Smiles, an oral health screening/education program for schoolchildren, at the Cambridge Public Health Department in summer 2019. Her work included exploring avenues for program expansion to reach high need populations, updating the program’s logic model, and developing a program guide for future staff and interns. Sitara’s poster won the audience recognition award at the annual MPH Poster Night.
  • Luis Midence (MPH ’20) – Binghamton University. ANALYSIS OF DISPROPORTIONATE EFFECTS OF PAYMENT PENALTIES ON SAFETY-NET HOSPITALS. Luis Midence and mentor Anu Banerjee used statistical analysis to determine whether alternate payment models and value-based models disproportionately affected safety-net hospitals. The goal was to emphasize the role of social risk factors in determining a patient’s condition, which could result in negative outcomes. Hospitals with patient pools with this characteristic are at a higher risk for readmission and certain outcomes that result in a negative note for the healthcare system as well as a potential penalty. Midence and Banerjee also worked to improve their modified lace-score for risk assessment in patients, with a specific effort to reduce hospital readmissions.
  • Megan Mulvaney (MPH ’20) – Michigan State University. INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM ADDRESSES RESEARCH GAPS THROUGH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT CONFERENCE. Megan Mulvaney served on the planning committee for the 2019 Wayne State University Community Engaged Research Symposium, a national cancer and cardiovascular disease conference that invited researchers and community stakeholders to answer the question, “How Does Community Engagement Contribute to Stronger Science?” with a focus on engaging people of color and sexual and gender minorities in research and health advocacy. The conference connected local community groups to researchers interested in collaboration and addressed topics including community trauma, developing and delivering support for caregivers, and more. Learn More: Detroit HealthLink Cancer Action Council, CEnR symposiumDetroit Healthlink
  • Tyler Prochnow (PhD ’21) – Baylor University. SUMMER CARE PROGRAM IMPACTS ON ADOLESCENT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND FRIENDSHIP. Tyler Prochnow led a research project investigating the role social connection plays in physical activity behaviors of adolescents attending Boys & Girls Clubs. These clubs are critical for adolescents as they provide opportunities in low-resource communities. Continued efforts are being made to understand how these clubs can impact adolescent physical activity and how the social context may impact adolescent friendship and physical activity behavior during this important time in child social and physical development.
  • Iemaan Rana (MPH ’20) – University of California, Berkeley. UNCOVERING THE LINK BETWEEN GLYPHOSATE-BASED HERBICIDES AND NON-HODGKIN LYMPHOMA. Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are the most widely used herbicides in the world, though their potential to cause cancer is arguably controversial. Along with mentor Luoping Zhang, Rana evaluated the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma following high exposures to GBHs and identified a 41% increase in the meta-relative risk. Since publication in July 2019, their GBH paper is the most accessed article in the history of the journal Mutation Research Reviews. It attracted immense international media attention, and has been the subject of over 150 news articles and nearly 8,000 tweets and shares to date. 
  • Aditi Sharma (DrPH ’21) – Pennsylvania State University. COMMUNITY-BASED DIABETES MANAGEMENT PROGRAM AMONG THE NEPALI-SPEAKING BHUTANESE POPULATION. A community-based diabetes education program was piloted among the rapidly growing Nepali-speaking Bhutanese population in Harrisburg, PA. The project comprised of four diabetes education and cooking demonstration workshops. Each session began with an education workshop facilitated in Nepali language, including carb counting, meal planning, exercise, medical complications, and preventive health. The cooking demonstrations were conducted by a Nepali-speaking cook, who used locally sourced produce to demonstrate healthy and culturally tailored meal preparation for diabetes patients.
  • Tanner Turley (MA ’21) – University of Missouri Columbia. HARNESSING HOSPITAL DISCHARGE AND SYNDROMIC DATA FOR ACTION. By Turley’s efforts to link emergency room billing records that have expanded and definitive diagnoses information with near real-time complaint records for emergency room visits, opioid overdose case definitions used for both billing discharge data systems and syndromic surveillance systems can be analyzed and potentially enhanced to provide better data to describe the opioid epidemic.

All students are listed alphabetically.

Please help us congratulate all of these remarkable students by leaving your comments of support in the “Leave a Reply” section below this post. 

Now Accepting Nominations for SWRPH 2020

Nominations for Students Who Rocked PH 2020 will be accepted all year. Here are the guidelines:

All nominees must be currently enrolled students pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree in public health or a related field. Projects may be ongoing but should have gotten underway in 2020, not before. Projects may involve groups of other students. Ideally, projects will have tackled some of the most pressing public health issues in 2020, but projects that addressed ongoing public health concerns are equally important and welcome. Nominations must be received by Oct. 1, 2020. Faculty, advisers, mentors, and classmates are all eligible to nominate up to 3 students. Selections will be based on the following: timeliness and urgency of the public health issue addressed, level of success achieved, overall impact of the project, and level of inclusiveness and diversity.

Simply email JPHMP Direct at smonks(at)wakehealth(dot)edu with the name of 1-3 students, a brief description of the students’ project(s) and how it/they helped to advance population health in 2020, along with each student’s email address.

Do you know a student who rocked public health in 2019? Tell us about them in the comments section below!

Read About Other Students Who Rocked Public Health: