Student Spotlight

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GCH Graduate Student Heather Davies Receives Outstanding Student Research Poster Award

Heather Davies received the Outstanding Student Research Poster Award at the 2017 Annual Conference of the Virginia Public Health Association, held in Richmond in April. Heather’s was one of 22 posters presented by students representing the 7 Masters’ in Public Health programs across the state. Read more.


GCH Graduate Student Suyane Viana de O. Mesquita Receives Student Poster of Distinction

Suyane Viana de O. Mesquita, a GCH Master’s in Public Health student, was awarded the national "Student Poster of Distinction" award at the American Academy of Health Behavior conference in March 2017. Suyane’s poster featured her research on exploring vaccine decision-making among uninsured Latin-American immigrant adolescent females and their primary female caregivers. Read more.


GCH Student Selected for OSCAR Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

Ashley Plaster, a senior majoring in neuroscience and minoring in public health and biology, has been selected for OSCAR’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP) for fall 2016. Her project is “The Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors of George Mason Students in Relation to Zika Virus.”

As Plaster hopes to pursue graduate school in public health with a concentration in epidemiology, she has spent several months working with Department of Global and Community Health professors Julia Painter and Kathryn Jacobsen to explore how Mason undergraduate students perceive the Zika virus. Painter and Jacobsen will continue to serve as Plaster’s mentors through her URSP project.

With the support of the URSP, Plaster will write and submit an abstract for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and will also assist her mentors in preparing a manuscript for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

“I hope that this study may assist George Mason faculty with instituting educational programs to increase knowledge and reduce the risk of Zika virus. Findings may then be generalized to help other universities reduce and prevent Zika virus in their institutions,” Plaster said. “Dr. Julia Painter and Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen have been amazing mentors, and I have gained such a great experience thus far. I have no doubt that this program, along with their mentorship, will continue to enlighten me, as well as help me in my future endeavors related to public health.”


GCH Student Receives ASPPH/CDC Public Health Fellowship

Erica Street, an MPH candidate graduating this May, has received an ASPPH/CDC Public Health Fellowship for 2016-2017.

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fellowship program began in 1995 and challenges students to address emerging needs of public health, while providing them with leadership and professional opportunities.

During Street’s fellowship, she will work for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. Her work will focus on school vaccination coverage and exemption assessment. Street is familiar with these topics as she has worked as a graduate research assistant on a multidisciplinary grant on the same areas during her time at Mason.

“I’m overjoyed to begin my fellowship with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and having the opportunity of receiving mentorship from dedicated health professionals at the CDC in Atlanta this year,” Street said. “My academic and research experiences in the Department of Global and Community Health have prepared me to confidently move forward as an emerging public health professional. I owe a debt of gratitude to the CHHS faculty at Mason for their assistance throughout my time as a graduate student. This transition has been euphoric because of their support and I extend many thanks to them.”


Two GCH Students Presented At OSCAR’s Fifth Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship

Two Global and Community Health (GCH) students, Samantha Brown and Courtney Harris, both community health majors, presented during OSCAR’s Fifth Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship on May 4.

Brown conducted a pilot study last spring investigating the concept of social support among international students at Mason. Her results indicated that while international students typically have poor social support, international students at Mason reported high levels of social support. She also shared the significance of her study on her personally as this project was her first experience in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

Harris shared how her experience as a work study research assistant has had a positive impact on her academic and professional development. Harris’ current research, working with GCH assistant professor Jhumka Gupta, is exploring the perceptions of endometriosis and period-related stigma among adolescents. One of the goals is to understand the perceptions in order to identify potential outreach and educational opportunities.


GCH Students Participate in Clinton Global Initiative University

Three Department of Global and Community Health students were part of a group of 14 Mason students who participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) at UC Berkeley, April 1-3. Global health majors Catriona Gates, Hana Hanfi, and Janna Van der Hoven, represented CHHS.

CGIU is a three-day conference that draws students from around the world to engage in conversations about important world issues. More than 1,200 students participated this year after their application outlining a Commitment to Action they were making in their communities were selected.

Over the course of the event, participants attended networking dinners, plenary panels, skill and working sessions, and a day of service in Oakland, California. Attendees heard from many prominent figures, including former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. They also discussed a variety of topics from discrimination to climate change, and considered tough questions such as how does one develop the “courage to create” or “design for unintended consequences?”

“Attending CGIU and working on my Commitment to Action have been extremely rewarding and educational experiences,” Gates said. “Collaborating with other students who are not afraid to have grand ideas and hearing from professionals who have accomplished amazing things in their careers has motivated me to think bigger about the things I hope to achieve after graduating in May. CGIU is an environment filled with support and positivity and fosters a mindset that anything is possible. I walked away from the experience with an appreciation for the importance of partnership and an optimism for what the future holds.”


GCH Student Moderated Panel At Consortium of Universities for Global Health Annual Meeting

Tara Caton, an MPH student concentrating in epidemiology, organized and moderated a panel at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s 7th annual meeting in San Francisco on April 8, 2016.

The panel, “Multi-Sector Approaches to International Research Partnerships,” focused on examining challenges and opportunities in creating and sustaining international partnerships. The complementary panel of government, academic, and nonprofit representatives provided unique perspectives on the potential of international collaboration to leverage diverse backgrounds for realizing transformative solutions in global health. Kathryn H. Jacobsen, professor in the Department of Global and Community Health, served as a panelist.


GCH Student Presents At National Conference On Undergraduate Research

Harper Lovegrove, a global and community health major with a concentration in nutrition, presented her research at the 30th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), held in Asheville, North Carolina, April 7-9.

Lovegrove’s poster, “Infant feeding and supplementation knowledge and practices of Loudoun County, VA primary care providers,” was a summary of her project, which surveyed local physicians on breastfeeding and vitamin D supplementation knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Her project was funded by Mason’s Students As Scholars’ Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Lovegrove was supervised by Sina Gallo, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, in collaboration with Janine Rethy, MD, of the Loudoun County Health Department.

“NCUR provided an experience unlike any other I have had before. I was exposed to undergraduate research on a variety of topics, from political science to dance to biology. It was especially exciting to chat with fellow community health and nutrition majors from across the country about current events and findings in the field,” Lovegrove said. “It was also fun to bond with other George Mason undergraduate scholars. Representing our school definitely filled me with a lot of Patriot pride.”


Mason Students Participate in Caring for the Caregiver Hack

A group of six Mason students participated in The Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving’s “Caring for the Caregiver Hack.” Mason’s team included Brinda Somasundaram, MS in health informatics student; Noelle Harvey, gerontology graduate certificate student; Nu Kim Nhat Nguyen, BS in community health student; Aloksagar Panny, MS in health informatics student; Tina Jackson, BS in nursing student; and Pavan Sai Mohan Kolli, a graduate teaching assistant in computer science. The student team was accompanied by Maureen Schafer, term assistant professor of nursing, as a faculty coach.

The hack event is designed to provide students from Virginia colleges and universities the opportunity to create technological tools with a focus on improving the physical or emotional health of family caregivers. Prior to starting development, attendees heard presentations from subject matter experts on some of the realities caregivers face.

The 2016 challenge was for teams to create a technology tool to stay healthy. The Mason team developed a secure web page that was framed within the model of caring for the homebound patient with mind, body, and spirit wellness actions. The website was geared towards an efficient and effective holistic approach towards the care of the patient and their caregivers. The goal of the interactive website was to offer structure with improved communication across all caregivers helping the homebound patient.


Five CHHS Students Receive Provost Scholar Athlete Awards

Five CHHS students were recognized with the Provost Scholar Athlete Award during a campus reception and at the men’s basketball game against VCU in late February.

The Provost Scholar Athlete Award was created in 2009 by Provost Emeritus Dr. Peter Stearns to honor student athletes who have earned at least 38 credit hours at Mason and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.75 or higher. A total of 41 student athletes were recognized this year.

The five CHHS awardees are: 

  • Lynne Eisenberg (2nd award)—Track and Field, Integrative Studies with a minor in Rehabilitation Science
  • Megan Gooding—Rowing, Community Health
  • Elizabeth Kearns (2nd award)—Rowing, Social Work
  • Bailey Kolonich—Cross Country/Track, Nursing
  • Marcella Sims—Rowing, Social Work

GCH Student Publishes Article on Sports Injuries in Argentina

Hamdi Abdi, an student in the MPH program, has co-authored a study with Hafsa A. Abdirahman, MPH ’11, and Kathryn H. Jacobsen, professor in the Department of Global and Community Health. Her paper on sports injuries among Argentinian middle school students was published in International Sports Studies, the official journal of the International Society for Comparative Physical Education and Sport.

The researchers examined the prevalence of injuries among adolescents ages 13 to 15 that caused them to miss at least one full day of school and/or required medical treatment. Sports were the most common cause of injuries for both boys and girls. The authors determined that public health interventions for injury prevention in this population should include sports safety education from teachers and coaches.


Mason DC Public Health Case Challenge Team Presented at NAM

George Mason’s DC Regional Public Health Case Challenge Team presented at the National Academy of Medicine’s (NAM) annual meeting in DC on October 19. The team was selected to present after initially presenting their solution during the challenge event on October 16. The Mason team spoke during the Future Leaders Across Generations luncheon at the NAM annual meeting, and attendees include NAM members, sponsors, and NAM fellows.

The DC Regional Public Health Case Challenge is a joint program between the Institute of Medicine and NAM and is focused on a particular public health issue. The teams, comprised of five to six students from at least three disciplines, must then develop a solution to the multi-faceted public health issue.

The 2015 public health issue was supporting mental health in older veterans. The Mason team of six students from health administration, pre-nursing, community health, and neuroscience, developed the Vet Net network to help enable access to existing resources to improve veterans' social, mental, and physical health. Their solution cited barriers including stigma, lack of knowledge, and inaccessible resources as contributors to older veterans’ risk of a lower quality of life. Read more about their presentation.


GCH Student Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

Ji A Park, a BS in public health candidate at George Mason, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honor society on April 22, 2015. Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest honor society in the US and strives to advance studies in natural science, social science, and the humanities. Upon receiving her invitation to join the honor society, Park noted “she was honored to be selected by this prestigious society and to be a part of this tradition.”

Park is originally from Seoul, South Korea and received a Bachelor in Science from Seoul National University. In South Korea, she taught general science to middle school students. In 2011, she came to the US to pursue a second degree that focused on health.

“George Mason, because of its reputation as a multi-ethnic school, was a logical choice,” Park said. “It has been an easy adjustment for me as an international student on campus because of the support that the University offers.” To learn more about her host country, Park sought out courses in the humanities to help her further understand Western culture and assimilate to her new environment. She is actively seeking an internship and hopes to remain in the US to work on issues in global health, focusing on minority issues in the international arena.


Determination, Relatability, Experience Help Mason Team Create Award-Winning Website for Family Caregivers

In March, a team of five multidisciplinary George Mason Students competed in the Caregiver Hack Design Challenge in Richmond, Virginia. For this challenge, Heather Davies, Elizabeth “Libby” Rolf, Matthew Jesso, Ben Ruggeberg, and Julia Pfeiffer were tasked with creating a product or an app in 24 hours that would assist family caregivers with their role. In that time, they created a site called “The Family Room” that helps caregivers update family members and allows a secure location for medial records to be stored. The five member Mason team won the hackathon’s People’s Choice Award (along with a $1,000 cash prize) for “The Family Room,” showing that they were creating something that caregivers felt was particularly useful for their role. The Mason team will continue working on the site to make it even more resourceful for caregivers and families.