Research conducted by graduate students in MTSU’s Public Health program within the Department of Health and Human Performance swept the top prizes at the university’s annual research and creative activity “Scholars Week” event in the graduate-level College of Behavioral and Health Sciences category.
Public health students presented 10 projects total at the event, consistent with the program’s aims to “engage in collaborative research and other evidence-based initiatives that help inform and communicate public health issues through a health equity lens.”
First-place winner and public health graduate student Sherry Jernigan presented her research about the impacts of health literacy and cultural competency on the disease management of Type 2 diabetes.
“My research was inspired by my mother — a hardworking Nicaraguan individual who struggled with a language barrier and lack of education, making it hard to understand basic healthcare information,” Jernigan said. “I had to step in as the oldest and help her fill out forms regarding finances and health.”
Jernigan added that she is proud to be a Blue Raider and that her project would not have been possible without her MTSU education, and Chandra Story, associate health and human Performance professor, mentoring her through the project.
It was second-place winner and doctoral health and human performance student Jennifer Sanchez’s first time participating in Scholars Week, which ended March 25 with an expo culminating a weeklong showcase of student research and creative activity.
“It was a great event,” Sanchez said, “(that) allows students to shine by sharing their research and creativity. I enjoyed both viewing and sharing my research with professors and fellow students.”
Her project examined health behavior adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines.
Graduate public health student Gabrielle Chesak won third place for her research on the impact of COVID-19 on postpartum psychiatric outcomes, which was inspired by her best friend’s struggles with mental health after giving birth during the pandemic.
“Postpartum depression affects many women of all backgrounds, and it is an undervalued topic that deserves its own spotlight in mental health research,” Chesak said. “It was an honor to present my research at Scholars Week, and I am proud to have represented the college of Behavioral and Health Sciences.”
Angie Bowman, assistant health and human performance professor, mentored both Sanchez and Chesak for their projects.
“These wins highlight the quality of work being done by students within our programs and emphasizes not only the broad, interdisciplinary nature of public health as a field, but also the solid foundation in research with which students in our program are equipped,” said Bethany Wrye, undergraduate coordinator for the community and public health program.
Wrye added this success shows that public health students are engaged and motivated to apply their learning to real-world problems, that faculty works closely with students to mentor them through taking class projects to the next level and that, in addition to traditional class work, the overall curriculum incorporates high quality research and practical field experience.
To learn more about opportunities in MTSU’s Public Health program, visit the website here https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/community-public-health/.
To learn about further education opportunities at MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies, visit the website here https://www.mtsu.edu/graduate/.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)