Leja’s ‘Care Van’ Pitch Wins Big Idea Competition

Liana Leja, an Allegheny College senior majoring in biology, won first prize and $5,000 in Allegheny’s 11th Annual Big Idea Competition, a contest sponsored by the college’s Center for Business and Economics and modeled after ABC’s popular “Shark Tank” show.

Leja’s big idea: a mobile health care van, called the “Care Van,” that would operate in conjunction with Meadville Medical Center to provide basic health care to a mostly rural, underserved population.

Leja with Entrepreneur in Residence Chris Allison, co-director of Allegheny’s Center for Business and Economics. Photo by Sarah Holt.

Greg Bras, a senior economics major from Saegertown also earned an honorable mention in the competition for his work on additive manufacturing.

See full coverage in The Meadville Tribune here.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Alumni Council and Global Health Studies Seek Alumni Volunteers

Editor’s Note: The Allegheny Alumni Council has partnered with the Global Health Studies (GHS) Department to identify alumni who work in global health fields who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with current Allegheny GHS students and perhaps be featured in Admissions publications to highlight the remarkable outcomes of an Allegheny education.

The GHS program at Allegheny began in 2012 and is a rapidly growing major. Global health includes research and practices that improve health, seek to achieve equity in health for people worldwide, and protect societies against global health threats.

If you work in a GHS field and are willing to help, please complete this interest form to tell us about your work and the ways you would like to be engaged in the program. Please direct questions to Dr. Caryl Waggett, Global Health Studies department chair, at cwaggett@allegheny.edu.

Allegheny’s mission to encourage personal and social responsibility, and its strategic priorities – to build new interdisciplinary programs, enhance collaboration among curricular and co-curricular programs, and to diversify and internationalize the campus and curriculum – were brought together in the development of the Global Health Studies program.

Erica Bryson ’15 was one of the earliest Allegheny Global Health Studies majors to graduate. Since then, she has worked for the Allegheny County Health Department as a National Health Corps Pittsburgh (AmeriCorps) member and now as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) Coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program. Under the county-wide wellness campaign, Live Well Allegheny, she has developed and implemented a learning collaborative and training curriculum for participants.

“The ultimate goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by surrounding residents with healthier options,” Bryson says, “whether creating a smoke-free park, promoting active transportation, or providing guidelines for healthy food procurement.”

HiAP is defined as a collaborative approach to improve the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across many public policy areas. Bryson’s position as coordinator allows her to look into which practices best serve Allegheny County’s 1.2 million people, and the best ways to disseminate the information to county agencies. Ultimately, the health department’s goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by creating a healthier county environment.

Global Health Studies at Allegheny is a relatively new program, but it is growing rapidly. Currently, the campus is working to expand the program’s capacity and the benefits it provides to students. One way they are doing so is through alumni outreach. Keri Fadden, director of Alumni Engagement at Allegheny, says, “The Global Health Studies department is relatively new on campus, starting in 2012, but is growing rapidly in size and student interest. We are searching for alumni who work in a variety of aspects of Global Health to become more involved.”

In 2013, faculty and students collaborated to develop the Global Health Studies major with the assistance of a generous $1.5 million undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The program continues to be redefined and strengthened by the students participating in its courses. Allegheny is one of only a handful of American liberal arts colleges with a GHS program, and is one of just three primary undergraduate institutions to receive grants of $1.5 million.

“This grant demonstrates HHMI’s confidence in Allegheny’s leadership role in higher education, and our faculty’s strength in cultivating creative and innovative researchers and practitioners in the science and medical fields,” says Allegheny’s President James H. Mullen, Jr.

Global health is a modern field of research and practice that prioritizes improving health equity and equality for all people worldwide and protecting societies against global health threats. The field is divided into researchers and practitioners.

Researchers seek to understand the underlying cause of social and environmental determinants of diseases so that they may be further acknowledged and addressed within unique populations and cultures. Practitioners focus on improving population health through multidisciplinary approaches, directly engaging in widespread population-level disease prevention and treatment of diseases, and indirectly by practitioners in fields as diverse as urban planning, food security, transportation, environmental and occupational health, architecture, and park services, each of which create the infrastructure that can lead to community health and wellness and less incidence of disease.

Allegheny’s GHS program stresses its interdivisional core, to promote a multidimensional understanding of global health issues in relation to patterns of socioeconomic development, bringing together courses on the environment, ethics, politics, economics, society, and culture.

Bryson believes the focus on interdisciplinary relations is what makes the GHS program so beneficial. “It is very fitting considering that public health depends on the collaboration among different sectors as well,” she says. “Another advantage is that the program provides an opportunity to look at health at a population level – something that I think could benefit all medical professionals.”

The program seeks to cultivate future scholars, practitioners, and leaders who possess the knowledge, skills, and ethical outlook required to respond effectively to existing and emerging challenges. For this reason, creating a strong connection between our developed alumni network and current students is invaluable to the growth of the GHS program and the students involved. Involved alumni might collaborate with the program by coming to speak on campus and directly mentoring GHS students.

Student mentoring is an esteemed role, through which involved alumni would help to generate momentum to assist students on the path to graduation and beyond, to the starting point of their global health career. Other alumni in targeted fields might be tapped to collaborate on short course offerings to enhance and deepen the student experience, or to network in regions with high student and faculty interest. The GHS program is hoping for approximately 30 to 45 alumni in a wide range of career paths, to help provide a diverse variety of guidance and career advice to students.

“In addition to traditional internship opportunities and job networking, an increased alumni presence would benefit the GHS program given the international experience requirement,” Bryson says. “I believe that as the college continues to grow the program, we will need to accommodate students with an increase in opportunities to intern, volunteer, or shadow abroad. Many of these experiences are possible because of alumni donations.”

Though the GHS program is still relatively new, it has already made a positive impact on Allegheny’s campus. It has shaped the futures of many students by opening new doors and providing vital opportunities of study and interdisciplinary work. The program has already had 19 GHS majors and 28 minors graduate, and currently there are 62 declared majors and 74 minors, though there are many still undeclared who intend to follow the GHS path.

If you are an alumnus interested in becoming involved with the program in any way, complete the interest form here. More information about Allegheny’s Global Health Studies program can be found here.

Photo Caption: Erica Bryson ’15, at right, now works as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny voices featured in ‘Pennsylvania Rural Health’

The Fall 2016 edition of “Pennsylvania Rural Health” published by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health has a strong Allegheny College presence. The feature story, “Lead Exposure in Children,” features comments from Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Global Health Studies Caryl Wagget. An ongoing column, “A Medical Student’s Perspective,” chronicles the journey of Ashley Baronner ’13 through medical school.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Professors Study the Story of Zika, Effects on Behavior

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What are people reading and hearing about the Zika virus?

How are their behaviors changing as a result?

Those are the questions three Allegheny College professors are asking as part of an interdisciplinary effort here to better understand the global consequences of Zika, a virus at the center of an international public health emergency.

The answers could have profound social and economic ripple effects and change the way society talks about sexually transmitted infections, including Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can also be spread through sex.

Vesta Silva’s work began this summer.

Silva, an associate professor of communication arts, and student Rachael Robertson ’17 analyzed an archive of American media coverage of Zika, looking for common themes. The stories, they found, focused on personal, not governmental or public, responsibility: Wear long sleeves. Use bug spray. When sexual transmission was part of the message, the message was limited to “Don’t get pregnant,” said Silva, who also teaches in the interdisciplinary Global Health Studies program.

Government officials weren’t talking about what federal, state and local agencies could do beyond insecticide spraying (visual, but not very effective, Silva said) or long-term research and vaccine development. Nor were they discussing direct actions communities could take now with the help of the government or nonprofit agencies, like installing window screens and air conditioning and cleaning up neighborhoods, Silva said.

“It’s not that there’s no role for the individual, but when you’re simply telling the story of individual responsibility and the government is responsible for vaccines only, we lose all sorts of possibilities for slowing the spread of Zika,” she said.

And just as important, what people read, hear and understand about the virus could influence their decisions and behavior.

As Silva was scouring newspapers and websites, Becky Dawson ’00 and Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi, both Allegheny assistant professors of global health studies, were surveying more than 2,000 women of childbearing age who live in states bordering Mexico or in states along the Gulf Coast, the areas in the U.S. most vulnerable to Zika infection.

A short questionnaire asked women about their behaviors and their future plans, whether they were sexually active and whether they planned to have children, among other questions. It also asked what form of birth control they used, if any, and which forms of birth control should be encouraged and used in light of Zika.

Dawson and Darrouzet-Nardi have just started to analyze the results, but answers suggest misconceptions about the virus and how it is spread.

“Our initial findings suggest that among the women who have heard about Zika, fewer than 15 percent are changing their sexual behaviors as a result of the outbreak,” Dawson said. “The number of women who are unaware that Zika can be spread between monogamous partners is staggering. We are also seeing that the majority of women believe that they know how to prevent spread of the disease by avoiding mosquito bites. The level of concern for the disease is lower than we anticipated.”

That could be because public health campaigns have largely focused on mosquito bite prevention. There has been relatively much less education around sexual transmission, and that’s especially problematic when it comes to Zika, Dawson and Darrouzet-Nardi said.

Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects, including microcephaly, which could have major economic effects on a family.

“Having it happen to you would be so life-changing,” Darrouzet-Nardi said.

It’s also important to talk about sexual transmission because people typically think of sexually transmitted infections as something they’re vulnerable to only if they or their partners are not monogamous, Darrouzet-Nardi said. That’s not the case with Zika. A woman or a man in a monogamous relationship who has been infected through a mosquito bite could pass the virus on to his or her partner.

“Monogamy isn’t protection,” she said.

That’s a game-changer, potentially upending how everyone ought to be talking about sexually transmitted infections and safe sexual practices in the future, Dawson said.

“Now we can pass an infection with enormous consequences between monogamous partners,” she said. “It’s going to revolutionize the way we talk about sex.”

If women do start making family planning decisions based on Zika, the effects on demographics and the economy could be long term and far reaching, Darrouzet-Nardi said.

“Whether and how women attempt to plan pregnancies around various risks is still an empirical question, and the answer is essential for improving global maternal health, birth outcomes, and women’s empowerment. Regular monitoring of family planning decisions and outcomes is essential for understanding the patterns that emerge with respect to infectious diseases or other health threats,” she said.

An interdisciplinary approach to Zika is crucial, Silva said.

“Zika is not a problem that can only be addressed by science, social science or humanities alone,” Silva said. “If we don’t bring all of those perspectives to bear, we’re missing key elements of controlling this outbreak or future outbreaks.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Zaborowski, Dawson present poster

Matthew Zaborowski ’17 and Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies and Biology Becky Dawson ’00 , presented a poster entitled “Investigating the Root Cause: Oral Health Emergency Department Admissions” at the National Association of County and City Health Officials Annual Meeting in July. Zaborowski’s poster was one of two completed by a student to be accepted into this year’s conference.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Coates serves as facilitator, speaks on effective researchers

Professor of Biology, Neuroscience, and Global Health Studies Lee Coates recently served as a facilitator for a Council on Undergraduate Research workshop on “Beginning a Research Program in the Natural Sciences” held in Washington, D.C. Coates also presented a talk titled “10 Habits of Highly Effective Researchers.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Darrouzet-Nardi’s research accepted by top journal

Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi’s article, “Non-violent civil insecurity is negatively associated with subsequent height-for-age in children under age 5 years born between 1998 and 2014 in rural areas of Africa” was accepted for publication in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a peer-reviewed scientific journal which was rated as one of the top 100 most influential journals in biology and medicine of the past 100 years by the Special Libraries Association.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Dawson, students publish findings of community health assessment

Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies and Biology Becky Dawson ’00, along with Erica Bryson ’15, Elizabeth Schafer ’17, Daniel Favaro ’17 and Austin Cosgrove ’15 published a paper titled “Is Perception Reality? Identifying Community Health Needs When Perceptions of Health Do Not Align with Public Health and Clinical Data” in the Journal of Community Medicine. The paper highlights the initial findings of the Meadville Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Guimaraes, Dawson publish paper on ER admissions

Thais Rafael Guimaraes (international student at Allegheny 2015-16) and Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies and Biology Becky Dawson (’00) published a paper titled “Seasonality of ER Admissions in northwestern Pennsylvania: A cross-sectional study” in the Open Journal of Emergency Medicine in June 2016. The article can be read online at http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=67668.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Faculty Member/Student Present at Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education

Becky Dawson ’00, assistant professor of global health studies and biology, and Erica Bryson ’15 presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education on March 31. Their presentation, “Partnering to Complete the Affordable Care Act’s Mandated Community Health Needs Assessment,” focused on the multi-year community-based research project that has been coordinated by Allegheny College and the Meadville Medical Center. Co-authors on the presentation included Garrett Devenney ’16 and Elizabeth Schafer ’17.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research