Category: Jobs/Internships/Fellowships

Karissa Frazier: UIC MCH Trainee Spotlight

As part of a  three part series, we will spotlight UIC MCH trainees who completed their summer applied practice experiences (APE) in summer 2019. This week’s spotlight will shine on Karissa Frazier, MPH candidate in MCH and Global Health, who was selected to participate in the UIC School of Public Health  Kenya Program with Maseno University. Here is her experience, shared and written by Madison Levecke an Irving Harris Scholar and a MPH candidate in MCH-Epidemiology.

Author: Madison Levecke, MPH (c), Maternal and Child Health-Epidemiology and Irving Harris Scholar

 Karissa Frazier

Karissa did her field experience through the UIC SPH Kenya Program with Maseno University in Maseno, Kenya, right outside the larger city of Kisumu, Kenya. She was one of five students selected to go to Kenya, where she and another UIC MPH student were placed in Maseno. This was the first time that UIC directly worked with Maseno University and she was one of the first UIC students to work within the University.

Maseno University wanted to create a community health needs assessment for community sub-locations surrounding the University. Karissa was responsible for writing up questionnaires that would be distributed in the community. She assisted in the development of a household questionnaire and a women’s health questionnaire, pulling questions from the Kenyan Demographic Health Survey, as well as including other questions that could impact health. The household questionnaire was about 40 questions long and focused on the general health and wellbeing of the household.  Examples of questions included aspects of where someone would go when they or a family member is sick, health insurance status, who their point of contact was within the community for health concerns and questions, and if they have running water or a toilet facility. The women’s questionnaire was focused on women’s health information. The survey included sections on sexual and reproductive history, contraception, nutritional status, and health perceptions. Additionally, Karissa and her team had to map out the community areas using GIS software, and they decided to focus on two areas near the University. Because of the language barrier between the UIC students and the community, undergraduate public health students at Maseno administered the surveys. After two and a half weeks, 400 households were surveyed and 600 total questionnaires were completed. This project moved along quickly, and Karissa and her teammates were able to input all of their collected data into a database they created.

I asked Karissa if she could identify three significant things she learned this past summer. First, she said that understanding how a community works is extremely important, especially if you are not from that specific community. Karissa also shared that she really appreciated the utilization of community health workers by the Kenya health system. One community health worker (CHW)  is assigned to work with 100 households. These CHWs go door-to-door to each household, and have a relationship with the community and the families they serve. Karissa stated that the CHWs helped lead them into the community, introduced those administering the surveys to the household, calling them an “invaluable asset” both for the project and for the community as a whole. Karissa also stated that she gained skills in creating a database, as well as using GIS software, which she had no experience with prior to this field experience. Finally, she is looking forward to seeing the impact this assessment will have on the community in the years to come.

Lastly, I asked Karissa to share some advice for those first-year students, like myself, just beginning their search for an Applied Practice Experience. She mentioned that if you have a global health concentration or having any interest in working on a global level, working in another country and in a different culture is once in a lifetime experience. While in Kenya for nine weeks, she fostered many meaningful relationships. These people expressed to her that she would always have a place to stay there no matter how long it’s been. While abroad, Karissa blogged about her experiences, allowing her to help reflect and live in the present during this amazing opportunity.


Sarah Bergen: UIC MCH Trainee Spotlight

As part of a  three part series, we will spotlight UIC MCH trainees who completed their summer applied practice experiences (APE) in summer 2019. This week’s spotlight will shine on Sarah Bergen, who worked at Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. Here is her experience, shared and written by Madison Levecke an Irving Harris Scholar and a MPH candidate in MCH-Epidemiology.

Author: Madison Levecke, MPH (c), Maternal and Child Health-Epidemiology and Irving Harris Scholar

Sarah Bergen

Sarah completed her Applied Practice Experience at the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) in Chicago, IL. This organization is a systems-based organization, where they build capacities of other organizations to do work, manage grant funding, and provide fiscal assistance. Sarah worked mainly on school-based programming for adolescent youth, called the School Health Access Collaborative. This collaborative works to improve school-based health centers, health in schools, and mobile care units. PHIMC identified that there are issues with data sharing between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the healthcare providers that are providing care at these schools for many reasons: the capacity of schools, HIPAA, parental consent, and limited IT capacity to share data.

Sarah worked on creating a data-sharing toolkit that healthcare providers could use to initiate a data sharing agreement with CPS. Sarah was able to meet with CPS many times, and worked  with the Office of Student Health and Wellness. She completed a literature review on data sharing best practices between schools and healthcare providers, as well as created a process map for healthcare providers to use.

Another project she worked on was the Little Village Student Health Initiative. This is an initiative where three community-based organizations were given grants to go into schools and create a partnership to increase “Healthy CPS”. She was able to assist with the evaluation portion of this initiative and wrote a report for the funder.

A third project she worked on was for The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in schools. Legislation was recently passed in Illinois to have inclusive curriculum in schools on LGBTQ+ individuals throughout history and current events. Near the end of her field experience, she completed research on this piece of legislation.

When asking what the top 3 things she learned this past summer were, Sarah said that she was able to understand the importance of collaboration, and how it can take a long time to conduct quality collaboration in order to have a cohesive end result. Secondly, she learned that she really enjoyed doing evaluations. She is interested to see how data can be interpreted in many different ways, especially qualitative data. Finally, she got firsthand experience witnessing how healthcare systems are so complex, and how multifaceted health systems really are.

Sarah’s advice for first-year students is to start looking for an organization to complete their field experience at early, to look for those UIC connections but to not be afraid to email organizations directly that you are interested in. She found that looking back on past work from first year is a great guide for when you first begin the Applied Practice Experience. Sara also said, “Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and engage with your supervisor to get that feedback”, because many times you are doing things that you have never done before.


Angelica Cabrera: UIC MCH Trainee Spotlight

As part of a  three part series, we will spotlight UIC MCH trainees who completed their summer applied practice experiences (APE) in summer 2019. This week’s spotlight will shine on Angelica Cabrera, who worked at PrimeCare Community Health located in Chicago, IL. Here is her experience, shared and written by Madison Levecke an Irving Harris Scholar and a MPH candidate in MCH-Epidemiology.

Author: Madison Levecke, MPH (c), Maternal and Child Health-Epidemiology and Irving Harris Scholar

This past summer, MCH Trainees participated in field experiences both locally in Chicago, across the US, and internationally. We were able to connect with three Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Masters students. I sat down with them and asked them to share their experiences and advice they would give to first year MPH students just beginning their search for their applied practice experience.  Read their stories below.

Angelica Cabrera

Angelica completed her Applied Practice Experience at PrimeCare Community Health located in Chicago, IL. PrimeCare is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), so they receive funds to help underserved communities such as low income, underrepresented minorities, and immigrant populations. They provide services such as primary care, dental, and behavioral health. Angelica was interested in working in a clinical setting in order to gain experience working directly with patients and families, as she is interested in pediatrics and pursuing medical school after her MPH.

Prior to beginning her field experience, she asked this organization, “What do you need from me?” PrimeCare mentioned that their childhood vaccination rates were low. They see a lot of missed appointments, and wanted to increase awareness about vaccinations for families in the community. Together, Angelica and her preceptor decided on creating a quality improvement project that would eventually be sustainable and increase these vaccination rates over time. Angelica created a 3-phase project: phase 1 included collecting qualitative data, such as information from Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) on which children are on time for their vaccinations, behind on well-child visits or haven’t been to the clinic in a while. From that information, she called the parents of pediatric patients in order to determine barriers that deterred them from making their appointments. Angelica also completed surveys with the clinical staff to understand what their perspective was priority areas of need for their target population. Phase 2 included the distribution of surveys to families of pediatric patients that would come in for well-child visits. These surveys included questions about what they knew about vaccinations, their beliefs on vaccinations, if they knew the importance of well child visits, and if they knew which vaccinations their child needed. Although she is still collecting and analyzing these data, she found that most families are aware of the importance of well-child visits and vaccinations. However, many do not know details about the vaccinations their child needs, or what month to come in for their well-child visit. Phase 3 is just beginning, and Angelica is gathering information on evidence-based interventions that they could possibly implement at the clinic once all data are analyzed. Phase 3 of the quality improvement project will be going into her final Integrative Learning Experience project.

I was interested in hearing about the top three things she learned during her field experience. Angelica said that the number one thing she learned from preceptor is to always ask the community what they need, and to not make any assumptions. She stated that her preceptor, Erin Howes, who is a UIC MCH alum and currently the Manager of Quality Improvement, is always in the clinic talking with patients.  Erin would say, “How are you supposed to serve your community if you don’t know what they need?” Angelica also talked about the importance of measures. This is emphasized in many courses at SPH. However when applying it to a clinical setting, she saw first-hand how critical it is that the measures reflect the actual health of the community. She learned which measures the FQHC gets funding for, and how measures are associated to goals that need to be met each year. If these goals are not being met, it could limit possible funding and therefore have a direct impact on the FQHC’s ability to help their community. The third thing that Angelica mentioned was that teamwork is critical, especially in public health. She recognized how important it is to ensure everyone within a team has quality communication.

Lastly, I asked Angelica if she could give any advice to first-year students about to begin their search for an Applied Practice Experience. She said it is important to reflect on what kind of skills you want to gain. She recommends asking yourself what kind of organization you want to partner with that could potentially give you the experience you needs to be a better professional in your field. She ended the interview by saying, “Keep an open mind because opportunities open when least expected!”

 


MCH STUDENT FIELD EXPERIENCES 2018

Author: Gabrielle Lodge, MPH(c) Community Health Sciences, Maternal and Child Health

This summer, MCH Trainees participated in field experiences both locally in Chicago and across the US. We were able to connect with four Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Masters students and asked them to share their experiences and advice they would give to prospective and incoming MPH students.  Read their stories below.

Isabella (Izzy) Litwack

Izzy’s field experience was with an organization based in Chicago, EverThrive Illinois, what she considers one of the “policy experts around town”. Izzy worked on two projects simultaneously. The first project was on contraceptive justice, a new initiative that kicked off April 2018. EverThrive IL started a statewide coalition that included stakeholders, policy makers, lawyers, and medical providers. This coalition aimed to increase contraceptive access to people in Illinois. Izzy helped lay the basic foundation of this project. She researched current policies, regulations, and bills to understand what exists in Illinois to promote or restrict contraceptive access. She also engaged in a policy cross-walk where she compared contraceptive access in Illinois with 11 other states.

Izzy’s second project was related to Medicaid Buy-In. This November, the gubernatorial election is taking place in Illinois, and the democratic nominee is J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker has announced his healthcare platform to include a Medicaid Buy-In component. Pritzker has proposed a plan to allow any Illinoisan to buy into Medicaid, which traditionally has only provided medical coverage to low-income populations. This policy could be of particular importance to EverThrive IL because it could potentially provide insurance coverage to children who have not qualified in the past. To help EverThrive IL strategize, Izzy dedicated time to researching all relevant information on Medicaid Buy-In. This included looking at proposed legislation across different states and within Illinois related to Medicaid Buy-In.

Izzy has always had an interest in policy work and was grateful for the opportunity to get an inside look of a policy and advocacy organization. It allowed her to dig into healthcare and understand how policymakers have a huge role in impacting access to care. Moreover, her field experience with EverThrive IL allowed her master the language of policy and insurance coverage. Izzy says that often there are terms thrown around that we do not fully understand. This experience allowed her to have a better understanding of the terms often use in healthcare policy, Medicaid, health insurance, and the overall healthcare market.

Izzy’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“The field experience isn’t just about getting the job done. Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Use your field experience to network. Use this opportunity to preform informational interviews with the people you are working with. Asking people what they do for their jobs is valuable. Treat the field experience as more than a requirement for school.”

Channon M. L. Campbell, B.S., MSN

Channon was an intern for the Center for Community Health at Northwestern’s Institute of Public Health and Medicine. She interned specifically for the Mothers and Babies program, a postpartum depression (PPD) prevention intervention program. This program promotes healthy mood management by teaching participants how to effectively respond to their stress. It is delivered as a group or as a one-on-one intervention.

Channon worked primarily with low-income women of color. She conducted a series of surveys, gathering depression scores of mothers which are tracked at 12, 18, and 24 months. She also conducted surveys on bonding, and how mothers interact with their child. Some survey tools focused on child development such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), while others related to mental health, such as the Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI). Surveys were conducted at home-visits, but if unable to, Channon would provide outreach through phone calls. Channon would manage the data from home visits and client interactions to track changes and progress of both child development and mother’s mental health.

For her  Integrative Learning Experience, Channon will be work with Mothers and Babies to look at the long-term effects of client’s participation this program. She will look to understand if the program was impactful for the mothers to access preventative care to their infants (well-child checks, and immunizations). This is also allowing her to gain experience with research protocols and methods, such as designing a research question, data compiling, data management and working with the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Channon’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“For the field experience, consider breaking up the credit hours over two semesters. I found it overwhelming to have the 5-hour credit commitment in one summer and in the end, found it more beneficial and feasible to spread out the field experience over two semesters. I had competing priorities with other classes and work, so reducing my credit hours for the field experience was the best move for me. Map out your internship and follow it to a ‘T’ so you can get it all done. Don’t pick an internship because it is paid. Find an experience that aligns with what you want to do and find something that you will enjoy going to each day.”

Lauren Schwerzler, RDN, LDN

Lauren was selected as the Title V MCH intern for the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul. This is a national internship program out of the National MCH Workforce Development Center. Lauren was paired with an undergraduate student who is also an MCH Trainee from the MCH Pipeline Program, at the University of Maryland. Every state has a Title V agency that is charged with “improving the health and well-being of women (particularly mothers) and children” (Maternal and Child Health Bureau). Lauren helped the Minnesota Title V agency prepare for their need’s assessment that will be conducted in 2020. She curated materials and data briefs to facilitate the process to engage with stakeholders. She produced four data briefs for Minnesota’s Title V current priorities: breastfeeding, pregnancy intention, transition, and medical homes. Lauren also learned about health inequities that impact breastfeeding uptake, specifically racial disparities and regional differences in Minnesota.

Lauren pulled main themes out of a statewide survey that asked Minnesota stakeholders the most critical needs for women, children, and families. This survey can be filled out by anyone, and was distributed to community health workers, public health professionals, firefighters, police officers, and people who speak Spanish and Hmong. They received over 3,000 responses. Lauren conducted an analysis and found that the main themes included: housing, childcare, and education.  

Lauren additionally worked on a project related to the Title V Needs Assessment process. She developed a key informant interview guide for the Title V agency to utilize as they prepare for the needs assessment.  She also analyzed the Minnesota student survey on parental incarceration. Lauren says that the most exciting part was conducting key informant interviews with folks from Volunteers of America to understand the needs of currently or previously incarcerated women and their children.

Lauren’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“Once you have a field experience, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Preceptors tend to be more willing to go outside the schedule of projects you laid out. My preceptor showed me to link data, which wasn’t listed in the projects we originally talked about. Speaking up within the organization is important, at times people within the organization would respond “I didn’t think about that”. Don’t think of yourself as “just the intern”, think of yourself as a “new employee”. This is a fundamental period. It allows you to see what you like and don’t like, and you should take it seriously. It is great for networking and I recommend doing it in a geographical place you are interested in working when you graduate.”

Rachel Mason

Rachel’s field experience was with the Illinois Department of Public Health. Her preceptor was Amanda Bennett, PhD, a UIC alum and the current CDC MCH Epidemiologist assignee for the state of Illinois. Her project was focused on School Based Health Centers (SBHC).  There are 67 SBHC in Illinois, and half of them are in Chicago.  Rachel’s project built off of the Harvard-CDC Evaluation project and she employed program evaluation principles to assess barriers to and facilitators of high-quality SBHC adolescent health services. She also created a quantitative annual assessment to increase the knowledge about service capacity and standards of care within SBHCs across Illinois. This survey will be sent early fall to assess the SBHC on an aggregate level. Since there are no current data, these data will be used understand differences between SBHCs and identify areas of improvement.

This project also led Rachel to reaching out to SBHCs directly. Rachel conducted qualitative interviews at the SBHC with staff, and used the frameworks developed by the Harvard students to get specific themes of the staff’s needs. Rachel was excited to be able to be onsite at the SBHCs to conduct her interviews and found that seeing the physicality of the centers was very helpful. She was able to speak to others outside of the interviews and asked them about their experiences with SBHCs. She synthesized her findings in a final report and presented them to IDPH leadership. Rachel was really happy to have exposure to both quantitative and qualitative work.

Rachel’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“Critically think about what you want out of the field experience. Make a list of important things that you want to get out of the internship. Think about the subject matter of your project and how long you anticipate doing this type of project. Make sure you “mesh” with your preceptor. You’ll want to feel comfortable to ask your preceptor questions.”

 

 


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 


Life After Graduation as a Presidential Management Fellow

Bree Medvedev , CoE Alumna As a student in the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Concentration at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), like many others, I frequently wondered about my career after graduate school. I knew that I wanted my professional life to reflect my desire to give back to a society that had given me so much, but I was unsure of which path to take.

Late last summer, I stumbled upon the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) Program. The PMF Program is a highly selective leadership program designed to recruit outstanding recent advanced degree graduates for a two-year developmental fellowship with the federal government. As a Fellow, you engage in challenging work assignments, receive excellent training and professional development opportunities, and learn the ins and outs of national programs and initiatives that are crucial to the well-being of our country. I knew immediately that this was the opportunity I had been looking for that would allow me to merge my desire to be a public servant with my graduate education in public health!

After enduring an application and interview process that spanned several months, I was thrilled to see my name on the Finalist list in March for the PMF Class of 2015. I would now be able to apply for PMF-specific positions across the country in every department and agency of the government.

I already knew that I wanted work at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and began to apply for several positions. In June, I was offered a job in Washington, DC under the Office of the Secretary as a Program Analyst in the Office of Budget.

Everyday at HHS is different then the one before and I am able to use the critical thinking, policy analysis, and advocacy skills I gained throughout my time at UIC to develop, analyze, and implement wide-reaching health policy decisions within the MCH field and beyond. Motivated colleagues who share a passion for promoting and improving the health of the nation surround me. There are ample trainings available to me that not only help me build technical skills important to my position, but overarching leadership skills that will further my career in the federal government.

Each day I am proud to go to work, knowing that I am affecting positive change in the health of Americans across the country. The PMF program has given me an opportunity to develop my career in public service and pursue my passion of improving the public health of my fellow citizens.

If you are searching for an opportunity that will challenge you and allow you to develop in your role as a public servant, I recommend checking out the PMF program. The application for the Class of 2016 will be open from September 28-October 13. Good luck!

By Bree Medvedev, MPH
Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Alumna, Class of 2015

*The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the PMF Program, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the U.S. Government.


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


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


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

 


IAIMH Dolores Norton Student Research Award

Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health (IAIMH)
2013 Dolores Norton Student Research Award

This award is presented each year to recognize a promising doctoral student or post-doctoral scholar in the field of infant and toddler social-emotional health, development, and intervention.  The award honors Dolores Norton, known to most as “Dodie,” who is the Samuel Deutsch Professor Emerita at the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago.  Professor Norton has been an extraordinary mentor to a generation of graduate students who learned from her the importance of early child development, the roles of community and culture in early child development, the principles of family support practice, and the ways research can inform practice.  Dr. Norton devoted her research career to understanding children and families living in conditions of poverty and to understanding children and families through the complex lens of an ecological systems framework.

The award provides a $5,000 stipend to support research on an open topic regarding 1) social-emotional development or mental health during the zero to five age period, 2) behaviors, beliefs, and mental health of expectant parents or parents of young children, and/or 3) interventions for infants, young children, or families.   The award is open to doctoral students or postdoctoral fellows enrolled in or affiliated with an educational or research institution in Illinois. Area of discipline is open.

Applications will be reviewed by the Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health Research Committee.  The recipient will be chosen based on the quality of the study proposed and the potential for contribution to the scholarly literature and to practice.  The award will be presented on October 25 at the ILAIMH annual meeting (awardees will be notified in advance, and will be given complimentary registration for the meeting, as well as a year’s membership in ILAIMH).  Awardees will be expected to present a progress report after one year that indicates how they used the funds and the progress of their proposed project. Awardees are also expected to present on their project to the ILAIMH membership, either as a research poster at the 2014 annual meeting, or in a brief report in the ILAIMH newsletter.

Application deadline:  September 1, 2013

Application Guidelines:
Submit via e-mail (in MSWord or PDF) a brief narrative description (1500 words or less) of the proposed research project. The narrative should address the following questions:
1. What questions is the study attempting to address?
2. What are the core research methods being used?
3. In what way will the research provide a better understanding of the socioemotional development or mental health of children or the behavior or mental health of their parents in the birth to five period? What is unique or innovative about the proposed research?
4. What are the potential implications for the research for practice or in applied settings?
5. What faculty members are mentors for this research project?  Is the study a dissertation project?  Has the dissertation proposal already been approved by a faculty committee?
6. What is the timeline for completion of the project?  How much of the work has already been done, and how much remains to be accomplished during the period of the award?
7. Does the project have appropriate IRB approval?
8. How will the funds from the award be used? How, specifically, would the funding assist in the completion of the project? The funds may be used to fund all or a portion of the proposed project, such as research materials, software, training on research methods, payments to research study participants.  The funds may not be used to pay for student living expenses or conference travel.

Submit applications to Jon Korfmacher at jkorfmacher@erikson.edu

The awardee will be notified by October 1.

An announcement and presentation of the award will be made at the ILAIMH annual meeting on Friday, October 25, 2013. Questions about the award may be directed to Jon Korfmacher, Co-chair of the ILAIMH Research Committee at jkorfmacher@erikson.edu or 312-893-7133.