Category: Prospective Students

CDC’s Millennial Health Summit to End Health Disparities

Kera (CoE in MCH Student) with others at the summitAs a public health nerd, who follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with as much love and fervor as National Football League fans, I was excited to notice a flyer posted on campus about a free conference at the CDC. The Millennial Health Leaders Summit is a two day intensive training for graduate and medical students to network, learn, and explore case studies about addressing health disparities. My heart dropped when I read that only two representatives would be chosen to attend. “What are the odds that a first year master’s student would be selected?” I thought disparagingly. The application was simple: in 300 words or less answer “What will be the most important public health issue confronting communities that experience health disparities in 2025? What will you be doing in 2025 to address and reduce these disparities?” I wrote my essay in a caffeinated stream of conscience. My deep-seated anger at the smear campaign on Planned Parenthood and the ongoing war in America to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare finally had an outlet. The essay I constructed is without a doubt my personal manifesto.

One month later I forwarded an email with the subject line of “Congratulations on your acceptance to the Millennial Health Summit” to my adviser with my own addition on the top in all capitals that simply stated, “I GOT IT” followed with six exclamation marks.

I attended the Millennial Health Summit just three months later. I met several Maternal and Child Health majors from across the country. We compared classes, professors, and how our programs were set up. It was a fantastic networking opportunity with the students and presenters from around the country. I learned so much from this conference but here are my top three takeaways from the Summit:

  • Cross Collaboration is key. There was an urban planner who pointed out all of the ways that the poor planning of our cities creates obesity. One cannot fight obesity with just education. We have to work with urban planners, architects, and the department of transportation to create environmental change. He also pointed out if you can partner with the department of transportation to create more bike lanes or parks you have made your city healthier without even touching your public health budget!
  • Advocacy requires both qualitative and quantitative data. Paula “Tran” Inzeo from Family Living Programs, a health promotion specialist from Wisconsin conducted a breakout session, stating “you can have the data, but it is real people’s stories and voices that have the power to move mountains. The example was in their advocacy work to open alternative court systems in Wisconsin. They had all the facts and figures detailing how mass incarceration was a problem in Wisconsin; however, it was the voice of a veteran who had been helped directly by a substance abuse court that helped him get his life back on track with alternative sentencing of mandatory substance abuse treatment and community service rather than jail time.
  • I learned so much through the process of getting there. This is my biggest word of advice to master’s students- apply and try. Just try. I really did not think that I would be selected and even if I had not my 300 word essay is by far the piece of writing from my graduate career. I submitted it as my sample writing for several job applications that I was subsequently offered. More importantly it provided me with an opportunity to think beyond graduate school. It made me stop and think about what issue is most important to me, what aspect of that work do I want to be doing, and what position do I want to host in ten years. Once you think deeply about your priorities you can be selective with your time and energy. You can draft a plan of attack on how to get to your dream job. I highly recommend anyone of any profession to do this writing exercise for their professional development.

Written by Kera Beskin, MPH Candidate 2017 


The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program at UIC

Group photo of LEND students 2015

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program is a nationally-acclaimed interdisciplinary training program funded through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) that provides professional students with the tools to address disability within a larger context of health care. There are 43 programs at institutions across 37 states, including one at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), that aim to train like-minded individuals from a variety of fields to work with a range of disabilities, ultimately improving the lives of infants, children, and adolescents.

The LEND program at UIC is a highly intensive one-year training program that incorporates didactic learning as well as hands-on experience. Pulling professional students from a range of disciplines (i.e. public health, social work, medicine, etc.), the program meets once a week for a three-hour lecture that is often supplemented by panel discussions involving community members, past LEND trainees, and children and families with special needs. Further requirements include a clinical session every two weeks led by a developmental pediatrician, 300 hours of research or leadership experience, and a final capstone project providing data to be disseminated to the community. LEND also funds each student to go to one conference during the course of the year.

Two UIC MCH students, Alexandra Ibrahim and Tina Schuh, were accepted into the program this year and shared what inspired them to participate in the LEND program.

Alexandra Ibrahim is a second-year Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology student. She was inspired to apply to the LEND program after a presentation by Dr. Kruti Acharya, the Director of LEND at UIC, in the CHSC 511 course last spring. When she worked as a teacher before entering graduate school, she assisted children with various special needs and recognized the gaps in the system that provided these students with the necessary individualized services and support. In her experiences working directly with children with special needs, including a sibling on the Autism spectrum, she became especially interested in working with individuals with disabilities and felt that the LEND program would enhance her career goals in public health, specifically in using epidemiologic data to better inform policy and advocacy to the lives of people with disabilities.

Tina Schuh is a second-year MCH student, who heard the same presentation by Dr. Acharya in CHSC 511, inspiring her to apply to the LEND program at UIC. Tina previously worked for the Peace Corps in Morocco as a Health Educator, and also was the Director of a Boys and Girls Club for two years at an elementary school, where she witnessed similar inconsistencies in addressing the needs of children with disabilities. Her prior experiences with disabilities range from affected family members to nanny positions where she cared for children with special needs. The LEND program has increased her interest in the gaps in mental health services for children with special health care and behavioral needs.

This program is extremely beneficial to young professionals in building leadership skills, networking with other concentrations, and acquiring the tools to work with disability and special needs in a real-world setting. Whether someone has experience in working with disabilities or are relatively new to the field, the LEND program is a wonderful opportunity for exploring how disability is woven into every aspect of our lives and especially among the broader fields of health care, and furthermore, how we can best address and improve the lives of those affected.

For more information about the program you can visit the LEND program website at http://ahs.uic.edu/dhd/lend/.


MCH Student Practicum Experiences 2015

We were able to connect with two Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal in Child Health (MCH) Masters students who completed their field practicums over the summer. We asked them to share their experiences and tell us what coursework helped them prepare for the programs.  Read their stories below.

Student internship program. Picture of the student and her preceptorMCH Epidemiology (EPI) Student Participates in Graduate Student EPI Program (GSEP) in Oregon

I had the privilege of participating in the Graduate Student Epidemiology Program (GSEP) at the Health Authority in Portland, Oregon. The GSEP internship is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and allows students to partake in MCH Epidemiology projects in state, local or tribal government settings. This summer, I worked on two projects that allowed me to use my classroom knowledge in a real world setting.

My first project focused on an analysis of Oregon youth participating in the “Choking Game,” a strangulation activity in which adolescents cut off oxygen to the brain in order to achieve temporary euphoria. Oregon is the only state conducting statewide surveillance on Choking Game participation, and our research is the first to focus on children at highest risk of injury or death – youth who participate alone. My work consisted of a literature review, statistical analysis using STATA, and draft manuscript to be considered for publication in a national journal. I will also be presenting our findings at the 2015 APHA Annual Meeting.

My second project, a cost-benefit analysis of flu vaccines administered through School Based Health Centers (SBHC), pushed me to use my analytical skills in a new realm – business and finance. My analysis demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of SBHCs across Oregon and the financial formula spreadsheets I produced can be leveraged by other states to illustrate the importance of their own SBHCs.

Over the summer, it became evident that my UIC training had prepared me to tackle these projects in an efficient and capable manner. My epidemiology, biostatistics, and MCH courses provided not only the skills necessary to complete assigned tasks, but the knowledge to apply my skills to real-world research questions. In addition, I came away with the following lessons learned:

  1. Focus on the details, but never lose site of the big picture. Learning to review the data and understand how it made sense in the big picture helped me conceptualize my findings and bridge the gap between research and broader health policy.
  2. Collaboration is key. While the majority of my work was completed with my preceptor, it was necessary to seek additional insight and feedback from other subject matter experts. Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for future public health professionals, and I saw firsthand the value of strong working relationships.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. At the beginning, I was often nervous that my approach was flawed and found myself wishing for a non-existent answer key. With the support of my mentor, I became more comfortable taking leaps, making guesses and learning to make mistakes, which helped me grow and become more confident in my abilities.

By Alexandra Ibrahim, CoE in MCH EPI student

 

Cindy San Miguel, CoE student with leadership award MCH Student Participates in MCH Paired Practica Program in Michigan

I completed the National MCH Workforce Development Center’s Paired Practica at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the Children’s Special Health Care Services (CSHCS) division. The practicum focuses on developing the next generation of MCH professionals by pairing a graduate student from a Maternal Child Health Program with an undergraduate student from Howard University.

My mentee and I worked on a project for the CSHCS’s Family Center, a parent-driven unit providing emotional support and resources to families of children and youth with special health care needs. Acknowledging that technological advances have created new opportunities for communication, our project focused on:

  • How the division communicates with families today,
  • What families feel about the current communication, and
  • What families want to see in the future.

We designed the entire analysis, from conducting a literature review, to gathering data and reporting final results. Twenty-eight families were recruited and administered a mixed methods survey (multiple choice and open-ended questions). We also created a database documenting the social media presence of the 45 Local Health Departments. Our findings were then presented to division leader, who are now working to implement our recommendations. I was surprised at how much I relied on my coursework throughout the summer. I had not worked with this population before, so I returned to lectures from my MCH courses to better understand the issues facing parents of children with special healthcare needs. The spring MCH Systems course (CHSC 511) was particularly helpful in preparing for the practicum. One of my other projects was to track the monthly budget for an epilepsy grant, and I used my budgeting slides from the spring Integrated Core course.

While it is difficult to narrow down, the top three things I learned this summer were:

  1. Mentorship is incredibly important. My practicum reminded me of the value of having a good support system. A lot of us will end up in leadership positions, and the experience of mentoring another student helped me prepare for future leadership roles.
  2. Care coordination is essential. We acknowledge care coordination as an issue in our courses, but working with families who have children with really complicated medical issues, allowed me to understand the burden families face when coordinating the multitude of services for their children.
  3. Remember to humanize our communities. Each individual makes up the community, and individual stories are indicative of what is happening at the broader population level. It was heartbreaking to see families’ day-to-day struggles, but also encouraging to know that when we do good public health work, we can improve families’ everyday lives.

By Cindy San Miguel, CoE in MCH student


Meet Amy Solsman – Current MCH Epidemiology Student

Amy Solsman (right) with a friend in Shalisi, South Africa

Before moving to Chicago to study Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology at UIC, Amy Solsman spent two years in Shalisi, a rural village in South Africa, with the Peace Corps teaching math to 120 5th graders. While not a regular element of the math curriculum, Amy taught her students about HIV prevention and contraception. She felt that this was especially important due to the high prevalence of HIV in the area and the relative silence and stigma surrounding the virus in the village. She taught her students about dental hygiene and good tooth brushing habits. Amy also established a Permagarden Committee that created a school garden and provided nutritional education. Her passion to improve the health literacy and the health status of her students was a result from, in part, bearing witness to the unjust, negative consequences of a lack of access to resources and health care.

unnamedAmy said that working for a year at the Boys and Girls Club and her two years as a math teacher in South Africa “helps me keep perspective in the classroom because if you want to make a difference, you have to understand who you are serving.” The skills she is learning at the UIC School of Public Health (UIC SPH) are helping her further put her passion into practice. Amy is MPH candidate with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. She feels that she is getting tangible and applicable skills in research and data analysis, and the Maternal and Child Health Program’s leadership training is better preparing her for the workforce where capabilities in leadership are needed and valued.

Amy chose the Amy 2UIC SPH because of the MCH Epidemiology Program, and because the curriculum incorporates community based participatory research (CBPR) models and has a focus on local, state-wide, and national public health issues. Upon acceptance to UIC, Amy was awarded the Irving Harris Maternal and Child Health Assistantship. As a Research Assistant for the MCHP, Amy has had the opportunity to work on a study with Dr. Arden Handler that focuses on improving the utilization of the postpartum visit for increasing postpartum contraception use.

Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate


Alumna Success Story–Jessica Bushar Providing Access to Crucial Health Information for Mothers

Jessica_Bushar_picture

Jessica Bushar, MPH
Research Director Text4baby
National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition

Jessica Bushar earned a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology at UIC in 2010 and was a recipient of an award from Irving Harris Foundation. Following her graduation from UIC, Jessica was a Principal Research Analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago. In 2012, she began working at the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) where she now holds the position of Research Director of Text4baby.

Jessica is passionate about her work on Text4baby, which partners with more than 1,200 local, state, and national partners to improve the health of mothers and babies by providing timely, vital health and safety information to mothers by via text message. The Text4baby program has reached over 800,000 pregnant women and new moms and provided them with over 116 million text messages. As the Research Director, Jessica spends much of her time at HMHB working with partners and staff to evaluate Text4baby’s impact and facilitate research informed quality improvement.

Jessica believes her degree in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology from UIC helped improve her qualitative research skills and gain the competencies needed to make her a well-rounded researcher – skills that have made it possible for her to excel at her position as Research Director of Text4baby. Jessica’s research is implemented in real time to make a widespread positive impact on the lives of moms and babies through easy to access, crucial health information.

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate


Alumna Success Story–Madiha Qureshi Improving Health Outcomes for Mothers & Infants

Madiha Qureshi, MPH
State Director of Program Services
March of Dimes

Madiha Qureshi is the State Director of Program Services at the March of Dimes. As State Director, Madiha oversees the Illinois chapter’s programming and grant making to support state-wide efforts to reduce premature birth, infant mortality, and help mothers have full term pregnancies. She is currently working with maternal and child health leaders, health providers, and stakeholders across Illinois on initiatives to lower early elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. The campaign empowers and educates consumers about the importance of letting labor begin on its own and works with hospitals to develop “hard stop policies” and procedures to prevent early elective deliveries. Additionally, under Madiha’s leadership, the Illinois Chapter of March of Dimes is working on increasing bilingual prenatal education programs for expecting mothers and male involvement programming.

Madiha graduated from UIC with a Master of Public Health from the Maternal and Child Health Program (MCHP) in 2009, and she was a recipient of an Irving Harris Foundation Award. Madiha chose to attend the UIC School of Public Health because of her passion for advocating for women and infants, and the strong Maternal and Child Health Program. One of her most formative experiences while at UIC was attending Leadership, Legacy, & Community: A Retreat to Advance MCH Scholarship & Practice Leadership, which was hosted by MCHP through support from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The Retreat brought together “amazing leaders from the field” who were truly excited about the work they were doing. This experience solidified Madiha’s commitment to the MCH discipline and helped her form connections with public health leaders in Chicago.

Madiha is making significant contributions to the MCH community through her leadership at the March of Dimes to improve health outcomes for mothers and infants.

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate


MCH Alumna Success Story—Dr. Bozlak Combating Childhood Obesity

Christine_Bozlak_photo

Dr. Christine Bozlak, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, University at Albany School of Public Health
Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior

Dr. Christine Bozlak feels that her choice to attend the UIC Maternal and Child Health Program was “the best thing that could have happened,” because she was given unique teaching experiences, was part of a talented and supportive cohort, and had wonderful mentors who she continues to work with today. After completing her undergraduate and MPH in smaller community settings, Dr. Bozlak decided to do her PhD at UIC partially because of its location. Chicago gave her the chance to work with diverse organizations and communities in an exciting urban environment.

Dr. Bozlak completed her PhD in Maternal and Child Health at UIC in 2010 and received the Peterson Award. She was also chosen as the recipient of the Donaldson Award, the most distinguished award granted by the UIC School of Public Health to an individual that demonstrates leadership, academic excellence, and community service. Dr. Bozlak is now an Assistant Professor at the University at Albany School of Public Health, where she teaches courses to graduate and undergraduate students about the emerging needs of the maternal and child health population, specifically focusing on childhood obesity and adolescent health.

According to Dr. Bozlak, “community engaged research is where public health should be.” She is passionate about community-engaged action research and is working on a book entitled Participatory Action Research with other authors that will be published in 2015 by Oxford University Press. Dr. Bozlak is also collaborating with New York State YMCAs to improve food offered in vending machines, promote breastfeeding, and support the implementation of nutrition and physical activity standards for their child care programs; an effort funded by the Faculty Research Awards Program at the University at Albany.

Currently, Dr. Bozlak is completing an evaluation project with Dr. Maryann Mason at the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) of the Chicago Children’s Museum’s Made to Move Program. She is also a co-chair, with Dr. Michele Kelley and Dennis Li, of the American Public Health Association’s Adolescent and Young Adult Health Committee, and a member of the Strategic Alliance for Health at Albany County Department of Public Health. In addition, she is a member of the Leadership Team for the Alliance of New York State YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities grant.

Dr. Bozlak is truly a MCH leader that is providing invaluable contributions to public health practice, community based participatory research, and her local community!

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate


Practicum Experience 2014: Chicago Department of Public Health

IMG_7584 (4)So far, our time at the Women and Children’s Health Division at the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been very translational to what we learned in our first year at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health (UIC SPH).  We are conducting a Community Health Needs Assessment for the MCH population in Chicago under the guidance of CDPH Assistant Commissioner, Susan Hossli. To start, we gathered quantitative data in the form of vital statistics; this included infant mortality rates, low birth weight percentages, preterm deliveries, and teenage pregnancy rates for Chicago and the 77 community areas. We used the data to identify 18 community areas that have the poorest outcomes and we designated them as “Hot Spots.” These community areas are located on both the South and West Sides of Chicago.

After we compiled quantitative data for Chicago and the Hot Spots, we created a demographic picture of each neighborhood, which included socioeconomic status, overall health, education attainment, insurance, income, housing, poverty, crime, food access, and educational resources. These topics touched on what we learned in the Determinants of Population Health class, a new introductory class in the pilot core (IPHS 494). We learned that health is not only affected by biological factors, but also where you live, learn, play, work, pray, and age. It is also pivotal to understand that factors affecting health run the entire life course, as well as transcend generations.

Following the quantitative data, we prepared a systems analysis for each community area. The systems assessment analyzes the available resources in one’s neighborhood; this includes, but is not limited to Healthy Start programs, FQHCs, Healthy Families, Better Birth Outcomes, family case management, hospitals, clinics, birthing hospitals, WIC, family planning, behavioral health programs, and dental programs. This process was very informative because we gained a holistic view of the healthcare environment in the Hot Spot community areas.

We took Community Health Assessment (CHSC 431) in Spring 2014, and it was the perfect primer for this practicum. The knowledge, skills and tools we gained in that class proved essential for our success in this practicum. In CHSC 431, we learned the basics of a community health assessment: what it is, how the process works, where to find the appropriate and credible data, how to identify priority issues, how to obtain and analyze qualitative data, and then how to disseminate the information to community groups and key stakeholders. Another useful class prior to this practicum was MCH Delivery Systems: Services, Programs, and Policies (CHSC 511). In this course, we were introduced to the concept of what a health care delivery system is. We learned about the service delivery system for women, infants, children, and children with special health care needs. Our cumulative project over the semester was to synthesize and analyze the MCH delivery system for various states.

For a holistic view on the health status of Women and Children in Chicago, it is necessary to have a mixed-methods approach for data acquisition. Quantitative data is important to provide a snapshot of the health status, but qualitative data provides a full narrative of the gaps in access to a healthy life. We are currently scheduling focus groups on the West and South Sides of Chicago with consumers, service providers, and community based organizations. The focus groups will complete the needs assessment, and then a Strategic Plan for the City of Chicago will be formulated based on the data and gaps in services found in the needs assessment.

This practicum has been a learning opportunity since we have seen our coursework play out in a practical setting. It is exciting to see our work with the needs assessment play such a large role for the Department of Public Health. This project was undertaken with the hopes of influencing future programming and decision making within the city for healthy mothers and babies.

By Joanna Tess and Dan Weiss, UIC MCHP Students

 


“We are MCH”: Presentations about Maternal and Child Health

 Learn about the MCH field, our legacy, and the positive impact we have had on the health and well being of women, children and families.

 

The University of South Florida coordinated efforts with the Maternal and Child Health Training Programs to create Prezi presentations entitled “We Are MCH”.  Several MCH training programs (including our program) submitted pictures and quotes that were included in these presentations. The hope is to raise awareness about the field of MCH and the great work that is being done.

 

Click on the following links to view the presentations:
http://prezi.com/rz0qkn_wwzvp/we-are-mch/
http://prezi.com/c7e6u6hpyk2u/we-are-mch-mini-1/
http://prezi.com/wc9jvevjv3nz/we-are-mch-mini-2/
http://prezi.com/kyjdfgl9b17o/we-are-mch-mini-3/

 

 


Want to Know More About MCH?

The students in the University of Washington Maternal and Child Health
(MCH) Program and in other MCH schools of public health training
programs nationwide created a visual narrative of the public health work
and research they are doing in their communities. The presentation was done with the help of Charlotte Noble and the University of South Florida MCH Program.

You can view the presentation here.  If you are interested in engaging in work that improves the health and well-being of women, men, children, and families then you will enjoy this presentation – it may even give you ideas about how you can make a difference!

The stories help illustrate how MCH makes a difference in the lives of
women and children.