Gillings students making a difference

Impact award winners: Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Jennifer Poti, Cynthia Lin, Paul Gilbert, Kari Debbink
Impact award winners: Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Jennifer Poti, Cynthia Lin, Paul Gilbert, Kari Debbink

Last week, I attended several events where our students and their work were showcased. Hearing them talk about what they have accomplished was uplifting and enjoyable. Afterward, I couldn’t stop talking about our students.

Health behavior student teams reported the results of their eight-month-long work across N.C. Eight student teams worked during that period with community and other organizations to analyze problems, make recommendations and begin solving these problems. They attacked issues including opioid overdoses, unintended pregnancies and planning for aging populations. Students got real-life experience acting on community issues and, in the process, gave thousands of hours of assistance to North Carolinians.

That same night, about 150 members of the University’s Board of Visitors (BOV) visited the School for a reception. Students were positioned around the edges of the atrium with examples of their research, and they were fantastic describing what they had accomplished. We heard so many wonderful comments about our students’ work from BOV members. Many members also told me about members of their families who’d gone here and had impressive jobs in their fields of interest.

Later in the week, four of our students won Impact Awards from the Graduate School—one-fifth of all the impact awards to graduate students.  Impact awards recognize the benefit of students’ research for North Carolina. And about half of all awards were for projects focused on public health issues. A fifth student awardee, Kari Debbink, is in microbiology, but works in Ralph Baric’s epidemiology lab. Public health is everywhere at UNC.

SPHG690 student presents on Project Sahaay.
SPHG690 student presents on Project Sahaay.

The next day, I had the great joy of attending final presentations of students in SPHG690. They’ve been studying implementation science. Half of them collaborated with Wake County (N.C.) Human Services and tackled the problem of people getting turned away from STD clinics held by the health department, and they. Our students came up with great, practical solutions. I was impressed that they’d sat in clinics and observed, spoken with doctors and administrators and read the literature. The India team in the class collaborated with our partner FHI360 to increase AIDS hotline call volume for gay men through Project Sahaay. Seeing what our students can accomplish, with guidance and mentoring from faculty in the School and field work advisers, is awesome.


Tagged  impact awards, sphg690

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