Community and global health seniors showcase projects

Community and global health seniors showcase projects

Chloe Vasquez, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, April 19, seniors in the community and global health (CGH) concentration gathered to showcase their public health internships and projects. The 30 graduating seniors engaged in projects all around the world, with focuses ranging from women’s health to COVID-19 to Parkinson’s disease.

Instead of the traditional poster walk, the event was held in a hybrid model, with presenters conversing with visitors face-to-face and digital QR codes linking to students’ presentations. 

“The goal was to showcase students’ work in a format that is accessible to students now and in the future as well,” chair of the CGH concentration Eric Carter said. “Everybody brings something different to the table, so I just wanted to give them the ability to show off what they did and talk to other students and faculty.” 

Aaron (Xunwen) Xao ’22 worked in a lab for the first half of the year doing clinical trials on the HPV vaccine and assessing public acceptance of the vaccine given stigmas surrounding sexually transmitted diseases. In the second part of the year, Xao worked with the Gates Foundation to make the HPV vaccine cheaper and more accessible by working with the manufacturers and legislators to speed up the clinical trial process and increase production. 

“In China, cervical cancer has a huge disease burden,” Xao said. “HPV is a known method to prevent cervical cancer, and it’s very efficient. In China, HPV vaccines are super expensive, and a lot of people can’t afford it. I was working on a project to make HPV vaccines more accessible by including it in the national immunization program so that they can get it free of charge.” 

Another graduating senior, Shane Anderson ’22, has spent the last year working with Campaign Zero, an organization dedicated to ending police violence.

“I started doing prison healthcare research … [and] the [prison health situation] is really bad because most people who go into healthcare don’t want to work in a prison,” Anderson said. “Most of the doctors and nurses in the prison system either have malpractice issues or they’re just not fully qualified. This experience was eye-opening for me. I really enjoyed it.”

Grace Armon ’22 worked as a health education intern for teens and young adults with an organization called myHealth.

“I taught about contraception and … sat on coalitions with health educators from all over Minnesota,” Armon said. “It’s a lot of collaborative work. I learned that different schools have different administrative values. There were topics we had to avoid in some schools, so I think that to address health disparities, we need to recognize that not everyone has the same level of health education.”

Starting in the summer of 2021, Pablo Monterroso ’22 worked with the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities to establish a novel remote data collection method, allowing Monterroso and his team to collect information on children’s hearing after exposure to platinum chemotherapy. Using Monterroso’s method, the researchers can collect data from all around the U.S. and Canada. 

“It’s really hard to figure out how to collect data from people in New York and California when you’re not there with them, but the advantage of being able to do this is that it really increases the amount of people that are opting in and the amount of data we can get,” Monterroso said. “It’s been a really great experience learning the methods of developing a study from scratch to finish.” 

Other students have been exploring potential disease treatments through research involving animals. Tanner Hubbard ’22 currently works in a neuro-modulation research center in the Twin Cities through the University of Minnesota.

“They focus on deep brain stimulation as a treatment option for Parkinson’s disease using non-human primates, so [we work with] a monkey,” Hubbard said. “We collect data to see how debrain stimulation works to improve Parkinson’s.” 

The CGH program currently has 80 concentrators, which is more students than it has seen in past years. 

“There’s a ton of student interest, and it just shows how important public health has become, … I’m so proud of the work that faculty have done to build this community.” Carter said, “We have wonderful teachers in our program. What we’re seeing here is the product of a lot of their great teaching and enthusiasm.”

Vittorio Adonna, a professor in the mathematics, statistics and computer science department of survival analysis, and the incoming chair of the CGH concentration, expressed pride in the students’ work and impact.

“The students have done great work,” Adonna said. “The range of internships they’ve had is incredible. There’s deep scientific research, people helping administer COVID vaccines, [and] people getting involved with their community … They’re really impressive.” 

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