DMCHWD is pleased to highlight how MCH Trainees are contributing to the field. To submit a highlight, trainees should contact their program directors, and program directors should contact their project officers.
Kylie Boyd, B.S., B.A.
Kylie Boyd is currently an Audiology Doctoral student at the University of Arizona. She has always known that she wanted to pursue a career that would help improve the lives of children. Throughout her undergraduate education, she obtained a double degree in Speech and Hearing Science and Early Childhood and Family Studies. She wanted to learn as much as possible about childhood development and what barriers to communication children and their families may face. Her background in pediatrics has lent well to her current training as a student clinician and LEND fellow. Throughout the past semester, she has had the opportunity to work with patients at the Arizona-Sonora Border Projects for Inclusion (ARSOBO) in Nogales, Mexico.
In 2010, the AROSBO clinic opened shop to construct standard and custom all-terrain wheelchairs for individuals with disabilities. In 2013, ARSOBO expanded and began creating prosthetic limbs and orthotics and the following year, partnered with the University of Arizona Speech Language and Hearing Science faculty, along with the Au.D. students, to begin providing hearing healthcare for the community. Each month, faculty and students have the opportunity to travel to Nogales and provide full audiologic evaluations and hearing aid fittings for patients across the lifespan. ARSOBO is a sustainable program achieved through the apprenticeships that this non-profit organization creates and continues to contribute to the educational experience of audiology students. Additionally, during the month when students are not present, an audiology assistant provides services and continued care to patients.
During each monthly visit, the focus is on providing quality hearing healthcare and building trusting relationships with their patients and the community. Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed monthly visits last year, they have been able to come back with vigor. Throughout the last few months, they have been able to expand their scope of care by providing auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing, meaning that they are now able to evaluate infants and those who cannot test behaviorally. Additionally, they will soon be offering Real Ear Measures (REM) for hearing aid fittings, which can evaluate the acoustic properties of each patient's specific ear canal, providing more accurate fitting outcomes. Overall, ARSOBO is an incredible organization and clinic that provides quality and accessible healthcare to those in the community.
Kylie believes that every person has the ability to make an impact on the lives of others, and she feels extremely fortunate to be a part of the ARSOBO clinics. Every child deserves the right to quality hearing healthcare and every child has the right to reach their full communication potential. She is certain that her past experiences have provided her with a solid foundation to continue to develop her clinical skills and make a difference within the community.
Ettya Fremont, PhD, MPP
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia LEAH
I am passionate about translating scientific literature, and helping others understand how that information is (or could be) relevant to their lives. Throughout my CHOP LEAH Program fellowship, I have been fortunate enough to work with the Center for Parent Teen Communication at CHOP to practice synthesizing research in adolescent development and writing translation pieces in a way that is applicable and accessible to caregivers, teens, and others who work with adolescents. But writing is not the only way scientist-practitioners are called upon to disseminate research. We must also be able to speak to non-scientists about our research.
I had the opportunity to practice my oral communication skills through a CHOP/UPenn sponsored competition called the Three-Minute Thesis Competition (3MT). To enter the competition, I video recorded and delivered a three-minute speech about my research on parental remote monitoring of their adolescents' glucose levels. The rules also stipulated that I create a single slide that would be visible the duration of my presentation. In drafting the script and designing my slide, I learned a few lessons that I hope will help others as they think of ways to broaden their audiences:
- Use analogies to connect with your audience. Analogies are an effective way to simplify your research while making it relevant to your listeners. I asked my audience to recall their adolescence (likely) before cell phones, and to imagine that they were at a sleepover when their mother called, asking if they'd forgotten their toothbrush. By having my audience recall their reaction to their own parents' over-monitoring, I broadened the relevance of my talk to individuals, regardless of whether they have experience with Type 1 Diabetes.
- It is okay to feel as though you're leaving out information. Ask yourself, what is the biggest takeaway from your research. Then select one or two key points that you want your audience to remember (or that you find particularly fascinating); save the details for a 1:1 conversation at another time.
- Visual aids should enhance understanding and help convey a message. Instead of using words to duplicate your speech, use images to compliment your words. I talked over my ideas with friends outside of my field (another great way to practice your elevator pitches or science translation!). Ultimately, I used seesaws accompanied by light text to relay the importance of balance in parental monitoring and communication.
I recently received notification that I was one of two runners up in the 3MT competition. Not only am I thrilled about the present recognition, I am also excited to carry the above three takeaways with me throughout my career.
Arek Hidirsah, MD and Kate Rand, MD
Children's Hospital Los Angeles LEAH
Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) LEAH fellow Dr. Arek Hidirsah has been collaborating with CHLA Pediatrics resident Dr. Kate Rand for the last two years on a quality improvement (QI) project with the aim to increase access to the etonogestrel subcutaneous implant, a highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive method, to youth seen in pediatrics clinics. Their project began with a knowledge and comfort assessment of pediatrics residents and general pediatrics faculty at CHLA related to counseling for and provision of the contraceptive implant, 37 residents and 19 faculty completed the survey. Overall, they found that there was significant variability in comfort with counseling on the benefits and side effects of the etonorgestrel implant, with the majority of respondents reporting neutral or discomfort. 77% of respondents were interested in getting trained in implant insertion. They proceeded to work together with the drug manufacturer (previously Merck, now Organon) and CHLA faculty to increase training opportunities. The result of this effort was the certification of CHLA Adolescent Medicine faculty Dr. Michele Roland as a Nexplanon trainer, and she now provides Nexplanon training to every pediatric resident rotating through Adolescent Medicine. Additionally, the training has been offered to general pediatrics faculty at CHLA, as well as residents who had already completed their adolescent medicine rotation prior to the initiation of the project.
Prior to the initiation of this QI project, CHLA only had 1/109 residents trained. 10 months after initiation 29 residents have completed the training process. Drs. Hidirsah and Rand's ultimate objective is to increase the number of providers confident in the placement of Nexplanon not only at CHLA, but also wherever CHLA trainees move on to practice. The next phase of this project will be to find clinical opportunities for residents to solidify the skills they learn in the training provided by Dr. Roland, so they can feel confident enough in the insertion and removal that they could provide this care independently in their future practices. This in turn will provide adolescents and young adults in diverse practices settings with increased access to this very effective form of contraception.
Adriana Hurley, MPH, BSN, RN
Florida International University MCH Catalyst Trainee
Adriana Hurley, MPH, BSN, RN, graduated with the first cohort of MCH Catalyst Trainees from FIU's Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work. She has worked with the Miami-Dade Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) at the Health Choice Network (HCN), a nationally-recognized health services organization based in Miami, Florida, for the past seven years. She has served as NFP's Clinical Manager of Maternal and Child Health Programs since 2018. Through prenatal and postpartum home visiting, parenting education, and infant growth and development support, the NFP transforms the first two years of life of babies born to first-time, low-income mothers.
As Clinical Manager, Adriana directs maternal and child community health services within the HCN and leads Miami-Dade County's Home Visiting Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (HV CoIIN 2.0), funded by HRSA in support of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. HV CoIIN 2.0 builds on the success of HV CoIIN 1.0, the first national quality improvement (QI) collaborative focused on advancing health equity in home visiting. HV CoIIN 2.0 uses a dynamic approach of the Breakthrough Series from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, that disseminates evidence-based practices to achieve fast results and create a culture of change while preparing new leaders to work on QI initiatives.
Adriana is committed to mentoring the next generation of MCH leaders in South Florida. She frequently guests lectures in MCH courses at FIU and has already served as a preceptor to four MCH trainees. Under her mentorship, FIU students have been afforded the invaluable experience of taking part in HV CoIIN QI training and are already playing vital roles in improving the practice of home visiting and linking families to MCH services in Miami. Now that she is precepting students, she is proud to say she has "come full circle," in the training process and always looks forward to mentoring FIU students interested in pursuing careers in the field of maternal and child health.
University of South Carolina Catalyst Trainee
Growing up in Kentucky, Amanda Elmore witnessed many of her neighbors lose loved ones to addiction and overdose as a result of the opioid epidemic. To learn more, she studied medical lab sciences at the University of Kentucky before pursuing a Master of Public Health at Florida State University. It was during this time that she became interested in maternal and child health.
"I was hired as an abstractor with the Florida Birth Defect Registry during the Zika virus outbreak," Elmore says of her first experiences in the field. "I believe improving and supporting the health of women and children is key to a healthy, thriving population."
As a graduate scholar with the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program
at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, Elmore is integrating these two interest areas. Her project involves conducting a longitudinal study of mother and infant dyads to determine the long-term effects of opioid dependency on maternal and child health outcomes. While previous research has examined the immediate risks to maternal and infant health, Elmore's work will investigate how children with in-utero opioid exposure and mothers with opioid use disorder are impacted up to 20 years later.
"Amanda will examine the association between maternal opioid use disorder and hospital readmission over time for both the mother and the infant to assess long-term morbidity outcomes," says Nansi Boghossian, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "This study will provide very important contributions to the field of maternal and child health and is highly relevant to care providers and policy makers."
The Ph.D. in Epidemiology student is one of just three students selected to join the inaugural cohort of the Arnold School of Public Health's Maternal and Child Health Graduate Scholars Program. Now in year four of her program, Elmore has published five peer-reviewed papers (four as first author). She is also a member of UofSC's Behavioral Biomedical Interface Program – a National Institutes of Health-funded predoctoral fellowship that offers interdisciplinary training in epidemiology, exercise science and psychology to better prepare the next generation of behavioral scientists – and a Board Member of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. In addition, Elmore is the current Treasurer of the UofSC Maternal and Child Health Student Association (MCHSA) and a student representative for the Maternal and Child Health National Network.
Time with TAG
Boston University SPH, Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health
My interest in MCH started as an undergrad at Florida Atlantic University. Having majored in Neuroscience and Behavior with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies, I had the amazing opportunity to work as a researcher at FAU's Infant Cognition Lab. This was my first hands-on opportunity working with both parents and babies that inspired me to pursue graduate education to have a stronger and deeper understanding of maternal and child health topics.
While working on my MPH in Health Policy and Law with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health, I spent my practicum working as a research assistant at Boston Medical center in their OB/GYN clinic. Part of my role as a research assistant was to recruit and survey patients in the clinic to better understand the degree to which pregnant women worry about experiencing pain during childbirth and the postpartum period. Specifically, comparing the attitudes of women with opioid use disorder maintained on methadone or buprenorphine to those of opioid-naive women. We were also interested in identifying other patient characteristics that may contribute to anxiety around the anticipation of pain. This experience allowed me to work alongside midwives, doulas, and OB/GYNs and apply so many concepts that I had learned throughout my program. Through this opportunity, I was able to not solidify my passion for maternal and child health but set a solid foundation for my future career in medicine.
Being a member of TAG has allowed me to network with other MCH professionals across the nation. Having started my MCH training at the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to foster strong connections throughout my program. It's been inspiring to work alongside a diverse group of MCH trainees who come from so many backgrounds but have a similar passion for maternal and child health. As I finish up my graduate program at Boston University, I look forward to continuing my work in the field of maternal and child health while staying connected to the amazing colleagues I've met through this program.
My experience with TAG built upon a foundation of skills that I began developing as a graduate student. As an MPH student and MCH Catalyst Trainee at Drexel University, I also served as the President of Drexel's Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO). Due to COVID-19, this experience strengthened my communication skills as I led MCHSO's officers and membership. I also developed a knowledge of best practices for virtual engagement. Our group organized a variety of student led discussions of recent academic work and non-profit driven webinars that illustrated how COVID-19 directed the struggles, strategies, and partnerships of various local Philadelphia organizations. As COVID-19 rattled our international health systems and magnified socioeconomic and racial health related barriers, MCHSO worked to engage with the difficulties and disparities that we were seeing affect maternal and child health populations.
This work served as my inspiration to get involved with TAG and to continue to build strategies for increasing engagement in our new mostly virtual reality. Working with our diverse team has been a great opportunity to expand my own understanding of how best to utilize our MCH network. Our national collaborations have allowed me to continue building upon the local experiences that I had through my MPH. My ultimate goal is to amplify this network's unique professional development and service opportunities to enhance our shared learning environment for all current and former trainees.
Austin C. Edwards, BS
University of Florida Pediatric Pulmonary Center
In Summer 2021 semester, I completed a long-term traineeship with the University of Florida (UF) Pediatric Pulmonary Center Leadership Training Program as a Public Health trainee. I am pursuing dual Master's degree programs at UF, in both Public Health and Family, Youth and Community Sciences. During my time with the PPC, I shadowed the interdisciplinary team at the Cystic Fibrosis, the Severe Asthma and Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinics. The patients I met had varied health conditions and many came from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and/or underserved communities as North Central Florida has a high percentage of families at or below the poverty level. The patients and families also came from diverse backgrounds. The PPC interdisciplinary team provides social work, psychology, and nutrition services to patients in addition to medicine and nursing. The interdisciplinary approach enables patients and their families to receive much needed services in a central location (either in person or via telehealth). This interdisciplinary, coordinated, family-centered care helps reduce health disparities as there is a greater likelihood that patients seen in these clinics will receive the care and follow- up they need. My PPC public health traineeship allowed me to view the "real-life" scenario of individual children, adolescents, and their families with pulmonary and sleep disorders. This will assist me in the future as I complete my Masters' programs and work in community or public health.
During my traineeship, the UF Pediatric Pulmonary Center also presented a 6-session Project ECHO series on Sleep Health in Children. This series was designed to raise awareness about pediatric sleep issues among providers in underserved communities so that they would be better able to serve children with sleep issues. As a participant, I was able to view the challenges providers in Florida's underserved communities face in providing specialty care. My traineeship at the Pediatric Pulmonary Center helped me to grow both personally and professionally. It provided me with skills and knowledge that I will use in my future career. l am grateful and appreciative that I was presented with the opportunity to complete my traineeship at the UF Pediatric Pulmonary Center. The experiences that I had during my traineeship have inspired me and strengthened my desire to work to decrease health disparities in our communities.
Edith Brignoni Pérez
Stanford University School of Medicine Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics
Dr. Edith Brignoni Pérez' is a third-year Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine and an intermediate trainee. Her research interests are focused on human brain- behavior early development and how experience or environment modulates infant and children mental health and neurocognitive outcomes, both in typical and atypical trajectories, with an emphasis on populations of disadvantaged backgrounds. She holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georgetown University School of Medicine and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Dr. Brignoni Pérez joined the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Stanford in July 2019, co-advised by Drs. Heidi M. Feldman and Katherine E. Travis.
We recently found significant disparities in Kangaroo Care (KC) (parent-infant skin-to- skin holding) for premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I investigated whether preterm infants whose families have lower socioeconomic status (SES) or communicate with clinical staff in a language other than English experience differences in the rate, frequency, and duration of KC in the NICU at our local hospital in Stanford, California, compared to preterm infants of higher SES or primarily English-speaking families. Our participants (N=116) were infants born very preterm (<32 weeks of gestation). We found that infants in the lower SES or Other language group experienced KC in reduced rates, lower frequencies, and shorter durations than infants in either the higher SES or English language group, revealing significant disparities in the NICU as a function of both SES and language. Moreover, SES and Other language groups made independent contributions, specifically to one metric of KC: duration (min) per day. Such disparities reduced infants' access to this developmental care practice shown to stabilize clinical status and promote neurodevelopment. We recommend that hospital nurseries implement policies that minimize such health care disparities.
I presented the results of our study in the form of a talk at the 34th Annual Graven's Conference on the Environment of Care for High-Risk Newborns in March 2021 and a poster at the Annual Meeting of Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in October 2020 and the Stanford's 12th Annual Pediatrics Research Retreat in April 2021, all experiences that expanded my knowledge in health care inequities in the NICU and nursery. A peer-reviewed manuscript of this study is provisionally accepted for publication in the Journal of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. This study has also led to the implementation of new strategies to improve our current practices at our local hospital, and we hope that others follow a similar example upon the official publication of our study.
Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health MCH Catalyst Program
Being a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) trainee at The Drexel School of Public Health (DSPH) MCH Catalyst Program has given me the leverage to participate in a multitude of MCH related opportunities towards enhancing diversity and health equity. I am passionate about dedicating my future career to advocate for Black mothers and lessen the inequities that exist in the maternal mortality rates in the United States. The Catalyst Program has certainly given me the platform to explore all of the ways I can be involved, and use my voice.
I have had the opportunity to work as a Graduate Research Assistant with Dr. Irene Headen. This work has focused on the City of Philadelphia, and aims to address the maternal health disparities that exist. This work has allowed me to completely emerge into the landscape of the Black-led and Black serving maternal organizations in Philadelphia aimed at empowering and supporting Black mothers. Conducting this work gave me the opportunity to present at the MCH symposium. I was able to present the work that had been conducted so far to other MCH professionals.
Another opportunity that I received from being a part of the Catalyst Program was becoming a Title V Summer MCH Intern. I was paired with Washington, D.C., and had the pleasure of working with Dr. Jasmine Bihm. The work as a Title V intern was focused on improving women's health in Washington, D.C. by increasing well-woman's visits and prenatal care visits among Black and Hispanic women ages 18 to 44. I completed a community scan including all community-based and primary clinic programs, resources, and campaigns. I also completed a literature review of social media approaches and the use of digital tools to help increase access. This literature review helped to develop suggested social media strategies and messages.
The experience gained in my first year has been immeasurable. These opportunities have allowed me to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real life situations. The DSPH MCH Catalyst Program involvement has given many great experiences and truly helped me solidify my future career goals in field of MCH.
Brittani Lamb, MSW
University of Minnesota Leadership Education in Adolescent Health
The murder of George Floyd here in Minneapolis in May 2020 made it painfully evident the University of Minnesota's Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (UMN LEAH) Fellowship Program needed to do more and meet the urgency of the moment. A committee was formalized to elevate the focus and guide efforts on antiracism and equity. I joined the Committee shortly after becoming a social work fellow that September. The Committee's goal of creating a roadmap to guide how the UMN LEAH could bring an antiracism lens to its programs and practices coincided with my degree requirement to complete a program evaluation. I subsequently took the lead on the implementation and analysis of an assessment to identify the UMN LEAH's strengths and opportunities for growth related to antiracism. The study, completed in spring 2021, utilized an anonymous online mixed methods survey to explore program actions and practices, as well as members' beliefs, perceptions of the program culture, and competencies.
Findings were shared with fellows and faculty during the annual summer 2021 fellowship retreat. UMN LEAH's strengths included members' commitment to antiracism work, a safe space to talk about (anti)racism, and efforts to teach fellows about antiracism and antiracist research methodologies. Areas for growth include publicly committing to antiracism with stated accountability measures, incorporating standards for antiracist practice into career development, increasing workforce diversity, and creating a program culture that reflects the value of antiracism.
Given the continued work ahead of us, it is encouraging to see fellows and faculty engaged in and committed to addressing racism. The Committee and UMN LEAH are capturing this momentum and have already begun to act by identifying core values and developing a mission statement and strategies to institutionalize our antiracism work. The Committee also aims to become a conduit to the UMN LEAH on tools and resources available to inform individual and fellowship-wide efforts, such as this position statement from the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. As we look forward to another productive year, this assessment will guide these ongoing efforts and provide concrete evidence for UMN LEAH's next steps.
Delia Giselle Melendrez Gomez
UCLA Center of Excellence Maternal & Child Health Training Program
I am going into my second year of my Masters in Public Health in Community Health Sciences and serve as the Communication Chair in the Maternal and Child Health Student Interest Group, member of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (UCLA FSPH) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, and a graduate student researcher for two social justice projects. My interests are racial equity in child and adolescent health, the relationship of mental and physical health, chronic stress, and reproductive health. My interests are all rooted in an intersectional approach to further understand BIPOC community disparities where I actively seek to engage in work that prioritizes equity. I am a research assistant for a mixed-methods project that aims to explore BIPOC attitudes to the COVID-19 vaccine to inform future ways of engaging BIPOC communities. Additionally, I assist with interviews and data analysis on a qualitative project that explores the curriculum at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health to identify the facilitators, barriers, and opportunities for improvement regarding the introduction, implementation, and institutionalization of health justice courses.
This summer, I was a Public Health Advocacy Intern with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) focused on supporting the policy platform and the housing justice campaign. I conducted legislative visits with California Council members and participated in coalition calls to advocate for reproductive justice bills AB 65 and SB 245. Part of my summer work in community outreach has been to educate community members and garner support for the implementation of a Rent Control Ordinance in Bell Gardens, a city with no access to reproductive services. My experience interning at CLRJ was insightful and solidified my passion for maternal and child health work. In this work, I advocate for housing as a reproductive issue given that housing is a human right and unsafe and unstable living conditions hinder the opportunity to start a family and/or raise a family in suitable conditions. I am beyond grateful to the team at CLRJ for the guidance and work culture rooted in respect and advocacy to empower communities of color.
Time with TAG
I didn't fully realize it at the time but entering graduate school in 2017 as a MCH trainee and newly minted AmeriCorps VISTA alumni would become the cornerstone of my career. AmeriCorps afforded me hands-on experiences working with families involved with DCFS and gave me a foundation into understanding how systems operate. These families were often up against a system riddled with contradictions that created more barriers than not. The UIC School of Public Health, Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health taught me frameworks to understand and name what I witnessed--systemic and environmental racism, disinvestment, reproductive injustices, poverty. My training program also became the foundation of my professional network, made up of individuals who devoted their lives to dismantling these injustices. I chose public health and specifically maternal and child health to join the workforce of change makers. Colleagues and I often tease that once you receive education in public health, you will never see the world the same again. You can no longer ignore, misunderstand, or misconstrue what is undeniably true about the conditions and environments around you; but you can change them.
Fast forward to 2021—We have been through one year, four months, and 9 days of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am working at a Medicaid Managed Care Organization that serves almost 400,000 individuals and families who are disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. Working with an interdisciplinary team, we are designing and executing interventions and procedural changes that protect, educate, and support our membership. We are advancing maternal and child health initiatives to ensure all families have access to immunizations, pre- and post-natal care, midwives, contraception, and all other critical services despite the pandemic. Meanwhile, I am expanding my network through TAG, finding my unique voice in the MCH landscape, and creating a platform for advocacy, shared learning, and growth. These are the experiences that a career in public health and maternal and child health affords you. Although you will no longer be able to ignore, misunderstand, or misconstrue what is undeniably true about the conditions and environments around you, you will change them.
Sa'Nealdra Wiggins - Adaptation and Implementation of an Online Health Promotion Intervention with Black Women
Sa'Nealdra is from Clarksville, Tennessee and moved to Knoxville to pursue a graduate degree in nutrition, after receiving an undergraduate degree in public health from Middle Tennessee State University. She was inspired to seek a career in the health field at an early age. She wanted to impact the health of those from underserved populations so, Sa'Nealdra began to build upon her nutrition minor and applied for the graduate nutrition program at the University of Tennessee. Throughout her graduate career, Sa'Nealdra developed a deeper passion for health equity as it relates to nutrition programming in the Black community. Fueled by this passion, Sa'Nealdra tailored her dissertation research to implement nutrition education courses with Black women and hopes to continue this work in some capacity in the future.
Background: The Black community is plagued by many different chronic diseases and many Black individuals were not only being hospitalized but were dying at high rates early during the COVID-19 pandemic which may have been attributed to the prevalence of these chronic diseases. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics found that Black women have the highest obesity rates in the country further highlighting the need to intervene with this population. An online health promotion intervention was needed to educate Black women on nutrition and physical activity concepts not only because of the high obesity rates but also because women are often the primary meal preparers in the home. Thus, a curriculum was identified, adapted, and used to conduct an eight-week randomized controlled trial with a wait-list control group and quasi arm intervention in which women met once a week for classes delivered via Zoom.
- To identify and adapt a curriculum to be used online during a national pandemic with Black women
- To test the effectiveness of the adapted, Eat Healthy Be Active curriculum with Black women
- There were statistically significant improvements in self-efficacy and health-related knowledge scores. Additionally, women reported increasing fruit and vegetable intake, decreasing sodium intake, and walking more. Factors such as social support, convenience, and relatability (of the facilitator) were important to the program's success.
- Future research should seek to create successful programs that allow for multiple delivery methods for times when in-person meetings are not possible.
- Future practitioners should be educated to be not only culturally competent but relatable to their priority population.
2021 Making Lifelong Connections (MLC) Reflections
Alana Cordeiro, Joyce Afueh, and Alexandra Vohs
You developed a plenary session with two other Ambassadors who you had never met before. What was your experience like collaborating virtually?
Alana: Working with Alex and Joyce was great! We were the first subcommittee to have their project due and it ended up being a breeze. We coordinated our schedules well and met our group/individual deadlines to make sure the project was done in time.
Alex: It was a wonderful experience working with Alana and Joyce! The Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) met as a large group to brainstorm ideas for the MLC plenary session before Alana, Joyce, and I met as a subcommittee. As a subcommittee, we met several times over Zoom to refine the topics proposed in the TAG whole group meeting to develop the presentation. We also worked together in Google Drive and via email to refine the presentation. In our Zoom meetings and over email, we were all conscientious of each other's time, respectful of each other's suggestions, and highlighted each other's strengths.
Joyce: Working with Alana and Alex was a very inspiring and educational experience. Both Alana and Alex have a variety of experiences with working within the maternal and child health field and their contribution to developing the presentation for the plenary session was invaluable. We met and coordinated several times over a couple weeks to put together an amazing presentation!
How did the skills you acquired in your MCH training program help prepare you for the TAG presentation?
Alana: I was a MPH student at Drexel University when they were awarded their grant to develop a MCH curriculum. I was able to take MCH-focused courses and was encouraged to give feedback on the class and other campus MCH activities. It was really great to see it being developed and to work alongside professors who were doing amazing MCH-related work.Group collaboration was a huge part of my experience and those are skills that I still use today.
Alex: My involvement with Maternal and Child Health (MCH) began in 2019 at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Center on Developmental Disabilities, where I was a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) trainee while completing my post-doctoral fellowship in child psychology. As a LEND trainee, I facilitated a discussion on a research article with my cohort. That experience helped me to refine my skills in developing a presentation and facilitating a discussion with others. Additionally, my LEND training director suggested that I attend the 2020 MLC conference during my training year. Attending MLC last year helped me to conceptualize the presentation when thinking about the audience and structure of the conference.
Joyce: I was an MPH student at Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health. As part of the MPH program, I was also getting a certificate in Maternal and Child Health from Emory Maternal and Child Health Center of Excellence. As part of this certificate program, we often engaged and collaborated with other students to develop reports and presentations for different classes, or plan events for students and professors. Having this experience in the certificate program was very helpful when it came time to prepare for the TAG presentation. Alex, Alana, and myself were easily able to collaborate to develop a meaningful presentation for the MLC conference.
What factors did you consider when developing the TAG presentation?
Alana: The current climate of the pandemic was where we built this presentation from. All of us have had to adapt to working from home/remote and juggling new work requirements. Although each of our experiences of this was different, we were all needing to readjust and realign our work/life balance. I think most MLC attendees (myself included) found at least one tidbit that was helpful to incorporate into our "new normal".
Alex: There were several factors that we considered while developing the TAG presentation. The main factor that we considered was the theme of the MLC conference when developing the presentation. The theme of the conference and the titles of other presentations served as a springboard for landing on our topic of the work/life balance in a pandemic. As current trainees and early career professionals, we also factored in what other trainees and early career professionals would benefit from most.
Joyce: Considering we were still actively working/going to school during a pandemic, we considered relatability and feasibility when working to develop the presentation. Alana, Alex, and myself were able to call on our own personal experiences of managing work, rest, staying engaged, and communicating with others all while working from home. When developing the presentation, we all focused on different aspects of managing work-life balance while working from home and provided recommendations that were easily adaptable and accessible for attendees to consider.
What did you like the best about attending the virtual MLC sessions?
Alana: My favorite part of the MLC conference was the Mentor/Mentee connection. I was able to connect with one of my mentees during the conference and again a few weeks later. We are actually planning to connect every other month or so.
Alex: My favorite part of the MLC conference was the emphasis on connecting with other attendees. Before the conference, there was a platform (Whova) to connect with others and to network. During the conference, there were several protected times to meet with mentors and mentees as well as times after presentations to reflect on the content and learn from other participants from various disciplines. Joyce: I really enjoyed the mentorship sessions. Because we were attending the conference virtually, it was great that there were sessions dedicated to learning and engaging with others in the field in a more intimate setting. I was able to serve as a mentor during the conference and was able to attend as a mentee during another session. Being able to experience both sides of mentorship and establish connections with other MCH trainees was very insightful.
Would you recommend MLC to other trainees in the future?
Alana: I would! It was a great conference and it was really great to hear from other MCH-professionals across the country. It was rewarding to learn and connect with each other, even if virtually. I am looking forward to when we can be in-person together again.
Alex: Without reservation! Attending both the 2020 and 2021 conferences was a wonderful experience that fostered my learning, connection with other professionals, and personal growth as a MCH trainee. While I wish I could have attended both conferences in person, the design of the conferences was engaging and allowed for virtual connections.
Joyce: Absolutely! Being able to learn and connect from other MCH trainees was an amazing experience. In my opinion, having the conference on a virtual format was actually able to encourage more engagement among trainees than I originally anticipated. I'm sure that as the yearly conference continues, MCH trainees will always look forward to attending the well crafted sessions presented by MLC!
Drexel University MCH Catalyst Trainee
I am a MCH Catalyst trainee and completing my Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner degree at Drexel University. I have always been interested in serving my community, particularly vulnerable populations. This is what initially drew me to the nursing profession, and I was immediately intrigued by Drexel 's Maternal and Child Health minor program. Through this program, I have been able to take classes such as Overview of MCH and Global Issues in MCH. I will continue to take classes for this minor, including Research with Rare, Stigmatized, and Hidden Populations and Perinatal Epidemiology.
Throughout the classes I have taken so far, I have been able to build a strong foundation for the history of MCH in the US, as well as current needs of women and children globally. This knowledge has enhanced my education in the nursing program, as women and children make up a significant portion of our population yet have always been and continue to be underserved globally. The MCH program has helped me form a new lens that I can apply to my practice as a provider to better serve not just individual patients, but my community as a whole. It is my role as a provider to promote wellness. The interdisciplinary training provided through the MCH program has widened my view to look beyond my patient's current situations and see what can be done to help them and others within their community throughout the life course. Additionally, through my education in MCH, I have been able to gain a better understanding of how social factors can greatly affect health concerns. These social factors such as poverty, accessibility of care, safe housing, and racism continue to contribute to inequity in healthcare for the MCH population.
Since beginning my journey in MCH at Drexel, I have become a leader in the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization. This role, and working with others for a common purpose, has helped to provide fresh perspectives and goals for my future career as a provider that incorporates my MCH training. I have built leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills through interdisciplinary training. This will continue to help me grow as a provider and inspire me to use my role to make a difference for my community. I strive to be a provider that promotes change, equal access to care, and play a role in reducing healthcare disparities. I am incredibly thankful to all of my professors and peers who have helped to shape my education in both my major and minor programs.
University of Washington Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Trainees
The Value of Outpatient Contact Time for Adolescents with Restrictive Eating Disorders
Background: The Seattle Children's Adolescent Medicine Clinic trialed a "Coordinated Care Model" in which new patients with concerns for disordered eating or an eating disorder met with a multidisciplinary care team made up of a registered dietitian, medical provider, social worker, and nursing staff over the span of 12 weeks. There are currently no national guidelines outlining recommended registered dietitian contact time in the treatment of adolescent eating disorders.
Josh's leadership project had two main objectives:
- Compare the differences in treatment progress of patients diagnosed with restrictive eating based on "low", "moderate", and "high" dietitian contacts hours over a 12-week period
- Identify potential disparities in dietitian contact time based on patient gender identify, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation
Data analysis showed the following:
- Patients with higher amount of dietitian contact time reached weight restoration more often than those with lower contact time.
- Patients with more dietitian contact time also had lower rates of hospitalization for an eating disorder.
- More patients with low contact time identified as nonfemale, BIPOC, and queer than those with high contact time
- Reasons for low contact time with dietitians need to be further explored
- Identify strategies to overcome barriers to increased engagement with dietitians.
- Particular attention is needed to understanding lower rates of dietitian engagement by youth identifying as nonfemale, BIPOC, and queer as well as strategies to engage these youth.
A Mixed-Methods Survey on Evolving Providers' Perspectives of Contraception Care for Adolescents During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Background: The novel coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges to the U.S. healthcare system, especially for adolescents. In March 2020, the Washington State Government required healthcare systems to adapt within days how they provided care to meet new social distancing guidelines. Medical professionals and institutions were forced to rethink how to provide adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare to adolescents given the new mandates. For her project, Emily designed a mixed-methods survey of eight questions asking about providers' experiences providing contraception care before and during the pandemic. The survey was sent out in February 2021 to providers at organizations serving adolescent clients within Seattle-King County.
Emily's leadership project had two main objectives:
- Examine practice changes in contraception care by providers during the pandemic.
- Assess provider perspectives on the efficacy and benefit of practice changes in providing contraception care.
Data analysis showed the following:
- Over half of providers did not think or were unsure if they were meeting their patients' needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Many providers reported an uptake in use of telemedicine to minimize in person visits.
- A change in prescriptions—type, duration and how they prescribed the method (e-scripts) -- were frequently reported changes to practice due to the pandemic.
- Lack of patient contact with adolescents was reported by providers as their biggest barrier to provide contraception care.
- A common problem expressed by providers was that even with a new system in place, adolescents were not participating in care.
- Re-survey participants at the end of pandemic to gain insight on how the pandemic may affect the field of adolescent reproductive health post-pandemic.
- Determine clinics challenged by new care systems.
- Identify adolescent populations not receiving care.
- Advocate for accessible and affordable telemedicine options for adolescents.
- Explore relationship between decrease of number of visits, access, and sexual activity.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Fellow
I (she/her/hers) am currently a fourth-year graduate student in the Medical/Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In January 2017, I graduated from Skidmore College with a double major in Psychology and Spanish, and a minor in Honors. In May 2020, I defended my thesis, which explores the impact of acculturation and autism knowledge on autism stigma in Latinx versus non-Latinx White participants. I am currently beginning my dissertation research focused on understanding the presentation and impact of implicit and explicit stigma/bias toward autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across sociodemographic groups, with emphasis on Latinx populations.
Raised in a Latinx family in rural New Jersey, I witnessed the difficulties my family faced in seeking adequate health care and experienced challenges accepting my cultural identity while avoiding stigmatization. As an undergraduate, I realized the impact that stigmatization had on my acceptance of my cultural identity, and began fully embracing my roots.
Academically, I have conducted clinical, cognitive, and social psychology research and later completed a clinical internship with adults with developmental disabilities. This combination of personal, clinical, and research experiences has resulted in my passion to pursue research aimed at understanding the presentation and impact of stigma on underrepresented groups with ASD, particularly focused on Latinx and Spanish-speaking populations. An additional area of interest is the intersectionality of gender and culture in females with ASD. My long-term career goals focus centrally on academic research and direct clinical services.
I plan on continuing my program of research, as well as teaching and mentoring students from underrepresented populations interested in ASD and serving their communities.
Kennedy Krieger Institute MCH Leadership, Education, and Advancement in Undergraduate Pathways (LEAP) MCH Scholars Program
As a young child I always had an interest in medicine. However, at the time I had a limited understanding of what it meant to be a physician and the impact they are able to have not just on the lives of individuals but a community at large. I was given that opportunity when I was accepted into the MCH summer internship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute after my freshman year at the University of Maryland. Here I completed a research evaluation for a nutrition education program and traveled to the CDC for a weeklong orientation. The program operated at state and local levels to increase nutritional awareness and knowledge among individuals with disabilities.
During my time, I developed an understanding of how financial strain and inaccessibility cause a lack of health knowledge for this population. I also traveled to the Maryland State legislature on Developmental Disability Day and accompanied individuals with disabilities who were self-advocates as they advocated and educated local legislators on policies and practices that would help individuals with disabilities live a more healthy, independent, and safe life.
It was my first tangible research opportunity and exposure to health policy. I was able to travel and present my findings at various conferences. The events and discussions that I attended throughout my internship taught me the importance of preventive medicine and its influence on reducing health disparities in the community. It also encouraged me to pursue further research opportunities during my time at Maryland. This internship was the driving force for my desire to locate the intersection that exists between medicine, public health research, and public policy.
On a fundamental level, this internship exposed me to other physicians that look like me and share similar backgrounds and experiences, proving that I had something to offer society and could join their ranks one day. Ultimately, this experience gave me insight into what it means to be a patient advocate, which means to always have your patients' interests at heart and to fight for their voices to be heard at the table. I now enter the next phase of my journey as an incoming M1 at George Washington University School of Medicine this fall on a full tuition scholarship where I look forward to my continued exploration in the mediums of public health and policy alongside medicine
University of Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities
MN LEND Fellow Builds Trust and Communication Through Animals
As a 2019-20 fellow in the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MN LEND) program, Carl Luepker spent time with Hold Your Horses, a Greenfield, Minnesota provider of occupational and physical therapy and mental health services using hippotherapy. The practice employs the gait and movement of horses to assist people with neurological and developmental disabilities or mental health issues.
Luepker, a former elementary school teacher, was deeply impressed as he watched therapists work with victims of sexual assault.
"It was magical to see how they connected with the horses and felt safe," Luepker said. "One thing I learned from Hold Your Horses was how important it is to communicate across species, without words, because words are hard sometimes."
Luepker knows this intrinsically. He lives with issues related to dystonia, a progressive, painful nerve disease that causes muscle spasms and speech difficulties. He has undergone several surgeries, most recently a spinal fusion procedure in January to strengthen his vertebrae.
Still, he is pursuing a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling at Adler Graduate School, and has about a year of coursework left to complete. When he finishes, he hopes to integrate his golden retriever, Luna, into a counseling practice.
"Because, who doesn't trust a golden retriever?" he quips. Having seen first-hand how horses can affect people, he is convinced Luna will make an excellent therapy partner.
"I find renewal myself at the dog park on Saturdays, and have seen children with intellectual disabilities just filled with joy there," he said. "As soon as you enter the dog world, it's just so much better. No one is not having a good time there."
Stepping Back to Move Forward
A mother with a few young children, including one with Down syndrome, was having a difficult day recently. Trying to juggle orthotics that didn't fit properly for one child and some behavioral issues with another was adding up to a lot of stress.
"I just thought, 'What can I do to take some of that load off today?'" said Megan Andre (MNLEND 2019-20), now a pediatric physical therapist with Mary Bridge Good Samaritan Children's Therapy Unit in Puyallup, Washington. While the family was in the office, Andre was able to get the footwear adjusted, avoiding a second trip back to the facility, and completed a referral to the behavioral health department for the other child. For the actual physical therapy appointment, Andre focused on some streamlined exercises that the family could work into their chaotic, pandemic-interrupted routine.
"You have to take into account what the family is going through outside of the clinical environment," said Andre, who completed her residency at Gillette Children's Specialty Care in St. Paul. "It's really easy to get stuck in the professional mindset and only think about the technical aspects of what needs to be accomplished in the appointment."
Combined with her residency training and earlier career experiences with people with a variety of neurodevelopmental disabilities, MNLEND solidified the family-centered care she now delivers, and the understanding that disparities in resources can have a dramatic impact on how therapies are accessed, said Andre, who recently sat for the pediatric clinical specialist exam.
Before becoming a MNLEND fellow, Andre practiced in outpatient pediatric and neurologic physical therapy clinics, developing an interest in working with children learning to walk and eventually presenting a community parent education class.
"LEND was a huge help in cementing that person-first care mentality," she said. "It helped me complete the circle in working with families so that they understand we're not just taking a few extra steps today. We're going to understand why it's important to do these steps and to continue them outside of PT. The goal is to be functional in everyday life, so they can participate more fully in the community."
MN LEND Fellow Wins State Award for Feeding Hungry Families During Pandemic
Winning a state government award last month for getting a food assistance program up and running during the pandemic was an impressive achievement for Mia Donley, (MN LEND 2015-16). What makes it even more impressive was the timing.
Donley, a registered dietician who received a master's degree in public health from the University of Minnesota, joined the Colorado Department of Human Services in March 2020 as an education and outreach coordinator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Just a few weeks later, Donley and a team of others from the DHS and the Education Department were tapped to issue Pandemic-EBT benefits to families of school-aged children who were not able to receive free or reduced-price lunches due to school closures. The electronic benefits were issued beginning in July.
Last month, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that the team, including Donley and colleagues Megan Hrdlicka and Max Young, won the Tom Clements Better Government Award for Outstanding Service. The award highlights the work of those who have elevated the performance of state government and strive to leave Colorado's government better than they found it, according to Polis.
In nominating the group, Office of Economic Security Director Ki'i Powell and Food and Energy Assistance Director Karla Maraccini praised the Pandemic-EBT program for "ensuring hundreds of thousands of Colorado children were food secure during the pandemic, going above and beyond their typical workload for months to get the program up and running."
Donley called the experience a crash course in crisis communication, listening skills, and benefits administration.
"We were building the plane as we were flying it, working with community partners to get the word out about the application and other details," she said. "There were a lot of lessons learned, and it brought me back to my time with MN LEND, when I interviewed members of the Somali community who had children with autism and were trying to learn about possible resources. The frustration so many people feel as they try to access benefits is universal. Above all, listening to participants is so important."
As her team now prepares for a second round of the electronic benefits to be dispersed, she said, they will take what they've heard from those participants and use the information to improve the process.
"We have to respect the stress families are under now," she said. "If you have run out of resources, we are sometimes the only place where people can vent their frustration. And I share it. We have to get these families fed."
Emory University Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health
Larelle Bookhart first became interested in public health as a tool for prevention of chronic disease in communities of color. As she progressed through her education, she narrowed this focus. During her MPH in Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bookhart served a lactation consultant and worked with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Through these roles, she became passionate about designing and implementing nutrition interventions related to maternal and child health (MCH).
Bookhart applied for a PhD in Nutrition and Health Sciences at Emory to continue her work on MCH interventions, particularly for populations that historically have not received funding and attention. She has gained several intervention experiences through this program. At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Bookhart worked on strengthening counseling for early breastfeeding and infant nutrition practices and evaluated a fruit and vegetable prescription program.
Bookhart's most recent work focused on breastfeeding initiation immediately after birth at Grady Memorial Hospital. Through qualitative research, she found that timely, one-on-one lactation support was a very important facilitator to mothers exclusively breastfeeding in the first few days of life. These findings resulted in Grady developing a business plan to hire more lactation support personnel and will serve as formative research for Bookhart's dissertation.
The Emory MCH CoE funded two years of Bookhart's PhD program, providing financial support that gave her "the flexibility and the opportunity to explore something that I was interested in and passionate about that responded to a timely need of a local organization." Bookhart also highlighted her experience at the MCH Southeastern Centers of Excellence Conference in Birmingham, AL, which included a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and related discussions, as an important moment in her training. This experience discussing racial historical traumas with a diverse cohort of colleagues further solidified her passion to address disparities that permeate the current health system.
Bookhart hopes to stay in academia after her PhD, continuing her research on MCH nutrition interventions that target racial and socioeconomic disparities. Community involvement is a central pillar to her research, and she believes respecting the participants as experts and listening to their ideas is instrumental in her work making a difference.
Rumi Agarwal, MPH, PhDc
Florida International University Public Health Catalyst Program
My desire to improve the lives of children with developmental disabilities began with an early experience as a teenager where I volunteered at a school for children with special needs in rural India. However, my realization of the direct impact of parent wellbeing on the lives of these children occurred to me during my time as a Maternal and Child Health trainee and scholar at Florida International University (FIU). My exposure to theory, methods and active learning in the classroom paired with practice-based experiences with families in the community helped me to better understand the lives of parents of children with developmental disabilities.
I am now a doctoral candidate in Public Health at FIU getting ready to defend my dissertation. My research focuses on the parents of children with autism and intellectual disabilities. The opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant with FIU Embrace for almost 4-years, an inclusive postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities, has further allowed me to understand that the needs of all family members should be addressed holistically, which includes the need for greater awareness and acceptance of individuals with autism.
I am currently completing a study funded by the Social Security Administration's Analyzing Relationships between Disability, Rehabilitation and Work (ARDRAW) Small Grant Program on financial planning behaviors among families of children with developmental disabilities. This is an important effort to expand our understanding of what families need, especially given that many of these families live in financial distress. I have also had the opportunity to publish 10 peer-reviewed studies in disability journals and presented extensively at local and national presentations. I have been a volunteer with the Special Olympics Healthy Community in Florida and March of Dimes. As I continue to pursue scholarship in this area, I am committed to pulling developmental disabilities out of the margins and into the forefront of research.
Disha Uppal, MPHc
Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, MCH Catalyst Program
I am currently pursuing my MPH in Global Health at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, where Maternal and Child Health (MCH) themes are woven throughout the curriculum. Prior to beginning my MPH, I worked as a Supports Coordinator for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Philadelphia. In 2018, I began working for the Policy and Analytics Center (PAC) at AJ Drexel Autism Institute as a Research Associate. My work at PAC ranges from building and supporting community programming initiatives to creating resources and supporting families in navigating both resources and the autism service system in Pennsylvania.
In my role at PAC, I am currently supporting the creation of an Autism Family Navigator Program in Philadelphia. In this model, a parent or caregiver of an individual on the spectrum receives a comprehensive series of trainings which prepares them to provide navigation services to other parents/caregivers of individuals on the autism spectrum. The goal of this project is to support families in navigating the Philadelphia autism service system as well as increase the number of families accessing services and promote earlier access to diagnosis and services as applicable.
The MCH program at Drexel promotes a multidisciplinary and intersectional approach to supporting children and families. Within the MCH program, I have taken Introduction to Maternal and Child Health and Global Issues in Maternal and Child Health. One key theme which I have taken from these courses is the value of the life course perspective. Often when we consider MCH issues, we think about people who are pregnant, yet these individuals have lived full lives and have had ranging contacts with the healthcare system before this point in their life. The life course approach has shaped my thinking and prompted me to consider innovative and comprehensive ways to support diverse populations within MCH, not just when their needs are within the MCH umbrella, but rather considering how to improve care throughout the life span. As both a full-time employee and part-time student, I am truly able to take my classroom experiences and knowledge directly to work being done in the community.
Supporting Young People with Co-occurring Diagnoses of Autism and Their Caregivers
Emily Reich, PhD and Brenda Osorio, PsyD
Leadership Education in Adolescent Health, Children's Hospital Los Angeles
The psychology post-doctoral fellows of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles support young people with a variety of presenting concerns and intersecting identities. During our training we have gained valuable experience supporting young people with co-occurring diagnoses of autism, as well as their caregivers. We have had the opportunity to co-facilitate social skills groups for adolescents and young adults utilizing the evidence-based Seeking Safety model as well as support groups for parents and family members of individuals with developmental disabilities. In the social skills groups, trainees model communication skills and provide encouragement for clients to practice those skills with each other to build confidence in social situations. Trainees also coach the clients to utilize healthy coping skills to deal with difficult emotions. In the caregiver groups the post-doc fellows implement interventions with the aim of improving positive parenting skills, assist caregivers to more successfully support their children in addressing mental health issues, and encourage connections to appropriate community resources to address their children's goals and objectives for treatment. In addition, caregivers are taught the importance of self-care to support their own health and well-being be a model for their children. The connections built in the social skills groups have been incredibly beneficial for the young people and the caregivers who attend, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic when many families are faced with isolation. It has been great to see both youth and caregivers connect with each other and provide a space to share good news, movie recommendations as well as support when things are stressful.
Time with TAG
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee
While working on my BS in Dietetics, I spent one summer as a research assistant in the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Part of my role as a research assistant was to administer surveys to mothers in the NICU, which allowed me the opportunity to spend my days hearing about the infant feeding challenges and successes of mothers, and learning from the dietitians and lactation consultants about how they support these families. Beyond the clinical elements of infant nutrition in the NICU, these encounters had me questioning and exploring public health messages about infant feeding. This incredible experience is what ignited my passion for maternal and child health and nutrition and ultimately led me to pursue a dual MS in Nutrition and MPH at the University of Tennessee and apply for their MCH Nutrition Education and Leadership Training Program.
Being a part of the MCH Nutrition Training Program, I have had a variety of opportunities to prepare me for a career in public health nutrition. I've worked on numerous public health nutrition projects, such the facilitating the East Tennessee Childhood Obesity Coalition and organizing the biannual Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium, attend and present at several national conferences, including the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists' (ASPHN) annual meetings, and participate in the Peer Mentoring Network and Trainee Ambassador Group. All of these experiences, combined with the education I am receiving from UTK, have me excited and ready to embrace a career that focuses on supporting women and infants achieve their health and nutrition goals.
Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health MCH Catalyst Program
My interest in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) flourished when I served as a teacher in Louisiana for the two years between my undergraduate degree and my Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. I became a MCH Catalyst Program trainee in the Fall of 2018 when I became a MPH student at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health. I learned a lot of valuable content and skills as an MCH trainee from the excellent programming that was offered. This increased my passion for MCH and led me run for President of the Preconception Peer Educators student group and to attend my first professional conference, the Making Lifelong Connections (MLC) annual meeting. After these experiences, I knew I wanted to further enhance my leadership and networking skills in the MCH field. I was thrilled when I was accepted to be one of the ten Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) members for the 2020 year. I applied to be on the TAG's MLC committee because the conference had such a positive impact on my trainee experience. I wanted to be part of the planning that would motivate and inspire others. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the conference to go virtual, fellow committee members and I had to quickly pivot to produce something engaging and informative in a new setting. I felt very fortunate to be working so closely with two amazing and talented TAG members. Because the conference was held in the first quarter of the year, my responsibilities significantly decreased after that time. I was able to pivot to the TAG's MCH Article Club committee. I've continued to attend committee meetings and posted an article for one of the monthly discussions in the MCH in ACTION National Initiative Facebook Group. The experiences and skills I developed this year working with the TAG and planning a TAG's virtual presentation for the MLC annual meeting set me up for success during my virtual fellowship this summer. It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate with other passionate MCH students and professionals and I look forward to seeing what else we can do in these last few months. I hope that we can all get together in person one day and celebrate all that we accomplished!
Shelby Davies, MD
Fellow Physician, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Program
My medical career has been shaped by the concept of social medicine, which seeks to improve health through clinical care, community outreach, research and advocacy. Providing equitable care to youth in my opinion is one of the best possible forms of social activism. Youth exist within communities marked by significant health disparities and unfortunately these disparities underlie different cultural expectations. I see it as my responsibility as an adolescent medicine provider to constantly be asking myself, what are we doing to engage all of our youth to accomplish their goals and constructively contribute to their communities and futures.
I have had the honor and privilege to participate in the CHOP Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Program as part of my medical fellowship training in the Division of Adolescent Medicine. The program is supported by a federal training grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. In January 2020, as part of the CHOP LEAH Fellowship curriculum, all Fellows had the exciting opportunity to visit our state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to meet with the leaders and staff of the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. This experience introduced me to the vast array of Title V-supported services, and the ways in which the funds seek to create community, state and federal partnerships to support youth. The LEAH fellows and faculty also had an opportunity to share their own experiences and answer questions from Title V Program staff about a variety of adolescent and young adult health issues.
Learning more about Title V has helped me as a developing adolescent medicine specialist to understand how we can empower, engage and partner with each other. This partnership can be done at the community, state and federal levels through collaboration and grant support of these critical youth development projects to create the community infrastructure needed to engage our youth. With improved infrastructure, we can empower our youth from all communities to be their best selves.
University of Minnesota MCH Nutrition Trainee
Somadee Cheam, a MCH Nutrition Trainee at the University of Minnesota, worked with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to support the Title V needs assessment. Over a two year period, MDH partnered with communities and stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the health and well-being of Minnesota's MCH populations. The needs assessment identified 11 priority areas.
Teams were developed to identify and implement strategies to address the 11 priority needs into a statewide strategic plan. This plan will guide work on improving MCH systems over the next 5 years. Somadee worked on six priority areas, focusing on the creation of educational materials for the strategy teams. Some of the activities she was involved in included disseminating data to strategy groups, explaining and summarizing relevant details of needs assessment priorities while highlighting disparities within the state, and strategy reviews for priority areas based on a review of literature and national standards, with an emphasis on innovative and emerging practices. In addition to the "behind the scenes" work, Somadee participated in planning meetings with one of the eleven strategy groups. These experiences were valuable in underscoring the importance of innovative strategies and community-engaged processes in understanding and addressing MCH needs of the state.
Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science and Practice, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health
As an MCH student at the University of Minnesota, I have had the opportunity to intern with the Title V Needs Assessment team at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Through this internship, I have learned invaluable lessons about data accessibility.
After the selection of Minnesota priority needs, the Title V Needs Assessment team helped facilitate strategy teams to engage community members and stakeholders in identifying strategies to address each priority need. To inform their decisions, strategy teams were given brief PowerPoints with state-level data on each priority need.
One of the projects I worked on involved creating these presentations. When making these presentations, I helped to develop "data biographies" for each data source referenced. Data biographies outline key information about a data set to help to ensure that the data is used responsibly, transparently, and ethically. Generally, data biographies list who conducted data collection, who the data belongs to, how the data were collected, where it was collected and where is it kept, how it will be used and why it was collected, how old the data is, and finally, how frequently the data are collected (Krause 2020). In our presentations at MDH, we also included the limitations of each data set.
Through this process, I learned that being transparent about the story behind the data, and the limitations that should be considered when interpreting it, is essential for ensuring that anyone from the community–no matter how familiar with data collection and analysis–can understand the data being presented. Data biographies hold those analyzing and using the data accountable and build trust with communities (Krause 2020). This experience highlighted important lessons for me on the ethical and responsible use of data because I learned how to communicate data in a way that is accessible for everyone and how to take the time to truly understand the story behind the dataset I am using before drawing any conclusions.
- MDH Data Stories & Data Placemats Background Information
- MDH Data Stories and Placemats Toolkit (PDF)
- MDH Title V Maternal and Child Health Needs Assessment Plan (PDF)
Source: Krause, H. (2020, May 14). An Introduction to the Data Biography / We All Count. Retrieved September 22, 2020
Liz Corey, MPH
Submitted by Liz Corey, MPH (2020), a former trainee at the Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science and Practice, University of Minnesota (UMN) School of Public Health (SPH) and a recent graduate of the UMN SPH with a major in MCH and a minor in Epidemiology. She completed undergraduate degrees in sociology and anthropology at Montana State University, then went on to work with nonprofits addressing food insecurity, mental illness, substance use, homelessness, and adolescent pregnancy primarily as a case manager. She enjoys making connections between public health and other industries to address health issues using a cross-sector and holistic approach. Liz is a Prevention Program Administrator in the Injury and Violence Prevention section at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) where she is committed to building the capacity of current prevention programming to better serve women and families.
Throughout my nearly two years deployed to the Title V team at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) I worked on many written projects designed to communicate findings from the Title V needs assessment to diverse groups of stakeholders. While these written products primarily focused on sharing results from needs assessment activities, they also served the purpose of describing social determinants of health and factors that have led to health inequities in the state. A centering component of all of this work was intersectionality. We conceptualized intersectionality as the interconnection between different aspects of an individual's life and systems of oppression that influence overall health.
Intersectionality was a term that I was familiar with prior to my deployment, but seeing how intersectionality informed all Title V needs assessment methods deepened my understanding of the concept. During strategic planning, I participated on a team of stakeholders that was tasked with developing three to five strategies that would improve the health and well-being of boys and young men. When I would tell other MCH colleagues about my work in this area, they were surprised that boys and young men were being prioritized but also expressed that it was a long overdue acknowledgement that the health of boys and young men has important implications for the health of women and families. It was an impactful experience to be involved from the very beginning of developing Title V strategies that recognized the impact of the complex interactions of systemic racism, poverty, and historical trauma on the health of Minnesota women and children while also cultivating a new approach to how the MDH provides funding and programming that is inclusive of the larger family and community systems.
I am taking the lessons I learned during my Title V internship about intersectionality, family systems, and the impact of trauma on health into my current role as a prevention program administrator with the MDH. In this position, I am developing connections between the injury and violence prevention and maternal and child health sections to build organizational capacity to respond with intersectionality-informed programming to improve the lives of women, children, and families.
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine MCH Nutrition Trainees
Jacque Futch, Miguel Angel Lopez, Taryn Smith, and Erin Morini
As MCH Nutrition trainees at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, we provided programmatic support to the Bureau of Family Health's Children's Healthy Weight Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) – Innovative Nutrition Integration (INI) project. Working directly with the Neonatal Initiatives and Title V Strategy Managers, we identified opportunities within the Bureau's current work where nutrition strategies could be implemented or expanded upon. We also worked with Bureau staff to support the integration of nutrition into the Title V Block Grant Performance measures, focusing on the health of infants, mothers, young adults, and children with special healthcare needs. We reviewed best practices and opportunities to integrate nutrition into their work focusing on different domains such as diversity, inclusion, food security, and U.S. food and nutrition policy. We were also able to develop MCH Nutrition resources for Bureau staff to consider which all received positive feedback. The Bureau of Family Health allowed us as students to exercise our professional skills and empowered us to be confident in our nutrition knowledge. We truly felt heard, respected, and trusted while being given the space to showcase our public health education and experiences we have had with the New Orleans community.
Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition
Nutrition and Physical Activity Coordinator, California Department of Public Health, Maternal and Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH), Sacramento, CA
Suzanne Haydu has been a member/"trainee" of the Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, Nutrition Leadership Network (NLN) since its inception more than 20 years ago. Suzanne has taken leadership for the MCAH Division at the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) to a new level. She has led numerous innovative efforts at the State to improve maternal and child health that include, but are not limited to: 1) Development and implementation of two childhood obesity Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Networks (CoIINs) in conjunction with the Association of State and Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN); 2) Designed and managed MCAH's Nutrition & Physical Activity and CDPH's Breastfeeding & Healthy Living statewide websites including a Systems and Environmental Change Toolkit; 3) Utilization of California-specific data, to initiate, design, and guide development of numerous Nutrition & Physical Activity initiatives including the nationally recognized "Birth and Beyond, California," a hospital breastfeeding quality improvement technical assistance and training initiative. She has also led efforts to adapt the MyPlate model for nutrition education handouts specifically designed for perinatal women, adolescents, pregnant women with diabetes, children, and preconception in multiple languages and has recently completed the 2020 "Providing Breastfeeding Support: Model Hospital Policy Recommendations."
Suzanne has served as liaison for MCAH with the CDPH Director's obesity prevention efforts and to the CDPH Wellness Plan where she developed and implemented workplace wellness awards for California hospitals and local MCAH programs. Ms. Haydu is CDPH's designee to ASPHN, has served on the Board and is a Past-President of ASPHN. She was instrumental in starting ASPHN's Maternal Child Health Council, including being the first Chair.
These are just a few of Ms. Haydu's many accomplishments with Title V over the past five years. However, what is extraordinary is that despite her incredibly full schedule, she finds the time to coordinate with her local university partners to mentor young professionals in our nutrition leadership training programs by including them in the projects cited above to ensure the legacy of nutrition leadership and the positive impact on MCAH populations continues. Ms. Haydu is a model for MCAH professionals and Title V training programs.
Melissa Pflugh Prescott, PhD, RDN
Melissa Pflugh Prescott, PhD, RDN is currently Assistant Professor of School/Childhood Foods and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her PhD in Public Health at the New York University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on the use of policy, systems, and environmental approaches to promote child health equity and environmental stewardship in school and community settings. Melissa was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Her past experiences also include managing a school-based obesity prevention program across seven elementary schools located in Harlem and Washington Heights, NYC and serving in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics House of Delegates.
Participating in the MCH Nutrition Traineeship provided me the unique opportunity to learn about pressing practice issues directly from MCH dietitians and nutritionists, as well as how these practitioners were addressing these problems with evidence-based solutions. Furthermore, this opportunity allowed me to make connections with prominent MCH researchers and have access to cutting-edge professional development opportunities. The MCH Nutrition Traineeship experience was very impactful and allowed me not only grow as a researcher, but it also gave me great examples of how to mentor students and has shaped how I currently teach my Community Nutrition (FSHN 428) course.
Leslie Hope Wills MA, RD, CSP, IBCLC, CNSC
L. Hope Wills MA, RD, CSP, IBCLC, CNSC, joined the UCEDD clinical nutrition staff in 1996 and has worked together with the UCLA Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program for the past ten years providing clinical training experiences for the MPH/RD students as well as guest lectures. During her tenure as a Staff Nutritionist she provided clinical services in community-based clinics for children with special health care needs. In 2005 Ms. Wills accepted the position as program director for the Dietetic Internship program. Under her direction, the program has expanded from four to six interns; adding two full time positions. She has also accepted leadership roles as a program reviewer for the Accreditation Council on Nutrition and Dietetics (2010 – 2015) and as the current chair for the NCPRO committee for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2019-2021). Ms. Wills served as a part-time lecturer for USC in the school of preventative medicine (2007-2016) and the school of gerontology (2017-2019). She has also delivered guest lectures on pediatric nutrition at UCLA, CSUN and Pepperdine University. Ms. Wills has served on the Feeding Development Team since 2007. In 2019, Ms. Wills co-authored an invited review on feeding issues in young children with two former team members. In 2010 Ms. Wills joined the faculty of CA- LEND program at CHLA as the nutrition discipline supervisor and small group leader for Scenario Based Learning. Ms. Wills has provided a number of presentations at the local, state and national level. She served on the planning committee for Breastfeeding Summit hosted by Breastfeed LA, in 2018; and presented on the impact of infant mental health on breastfeeding. She has also presented at Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2016) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (2015). Over the course of her career, Ms. Wills has witnessed the impact of prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding and the feeding relationship in the lives of children. Ms Wills has focused the next part of her career on the First 1000 days of life; working toward policies and practices that ensure that every child has the best start in life.
Dena Herman, PhD, MPH, RD
Professor, California State University, Northridge; PI/Director, Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition
As a former nutrition trainee of the USC Children's Hospital Los Angeles Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program, I was fortunate to be mentored by a number of leaders in the field of Maternal and Child Health (MCH), but I am particularly thankful to Marion Taylor Baer and Anne Bradford Harris for helping me understand the true "power" of nutrition and how integral it is for ensuring that children reach their potential, especially those with special health care needs. I was also a trainee under the directorship of Dr. Baer at UCLA in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition. Dr. Baer, also an expert in nutrition policy and programs impressed upon me the importance of making an impact on populations through policy research. I was fortunate enough to conduct my dissertation research on the impact of an economic intervention to include fruits and vegetables in the WIC food package. The outcomes showed that providing these economic incentives resulted in WIC families purchasing and using these funds to buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I testified in front of Congress to this end and ultimately in 2009 a change to the WIC food package to include fruits and vegetables was made, which now affects more than six million women, infants and children a month.
For the past four years, I have served as the Director of the UCLA Partners nutrition training program and can continue the legacy of my MCH nutrition mentors. In addition to my role as training director, I have also provided technical assistance to the local Title V program for Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as a consultant and Advisory Board Member of their Reducing Obesity in Child Care Settings, Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative. I work closely with the State MCAH nutrition consultant to provide TA to a number of their efforts including initiatives to reduce infant mortality, increase food security, and prevent the rise of gestational diabetes. At the national level I have contributed to the efforts of the MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup, the Pediatric Obesity Mini CoIIN lead by the Association of Public Health Nutritionists, and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, Competencies Review Committee. I have also led a recent technical assistance effort funded through MCHB to advance rural MCH nutrition initiatives for childhood obesity through the application of policy, systems and environmental approaches.
In summary, I am very appreciative of the various training opportunities that I have been able to access through my career. They have enabled me to make an impact on MCH populations at the local, state and national levels and I hope to be able to continue on this path.
Nutrition Consultant, Oregon Health Authority, Portland, OR
Robin Stanton has been a member/"trainee" of the Western Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, Nutrition Leadership Network (NLN) since its inception more than 20 years ago. She completed her clinical training with the UCEDD (LEND program) at USC Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Center for Child Development and Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Stanton is a recognized expert in Title V MCH and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs with a focus on building synergy across programs. Some of her accomplishments in this area include development of a lactation accommodation policy for a Cross-Agency Health Improvement Plan across Oregon, partnering with TANF for the revision of their breastfeeding policy and outreach materials to support clients entering the JOBS program, and online breastfeeding training modules to train all TANF staff.
She has monitored national and informed state surveillance systems including PRAMS, mPINC, BRFSS, and WIC data - on food and nutrition, breastfeeding, physical activity and screen time to take action on environmental change policies, programs and messaging. Ms. Stanton has provided technical expertise and assistance on food security, breastfeeding and obesity prevention, to local public health and state agencies, early care and education, community planners, non-profit agencies and policymakers and served as an expert advisor to the World Breastfeeding Trends Institute and Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs among others.
Some of her recent leadership positions include Vice Chair of the National Advisory Council on Maternal, Infant and Fetal Nutrition to USDA, where she serves as the public health nutrition representative to study the operation of the WIC and CSFP programs and make recommendations to the US Congress and President. She has also served as President of the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN), and Chair of their MCH Nutrition Council.
Ms. Stanton's pre-professional and post-professional training, provided through MCHB have helped shape her focus as a collaborative leader, emphasizing connecting programs, people and ideas to build successful partnerships to facilitate team building to achieve public health goals.
As a nutrition trainee in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program at Oregon Health Sciences University, I learned about the impact of social determinants on population health and its importance for communities of color. As a Health Education Manager at the Cow Creek & Health and Wellness Center (CCH&WC), a Federally Qualified Health Center operated by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, I oversee programs related to diabetes, diabetes prevention, nutrition education, suicide prevention, trauma-informed care, maternal and child health, and tobacco prevention and cessation. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I provide medical nutrition therapy to Tribal and community members of all ages at CCH and WC clinics in Canyonville and Roseburg, OR. I appreciate my experience as a trainee in this program because it has allowed me to see the value of not only serving individuals, but also serving individuals within community-based programs. I also learned about the importance of taking leadership in my field and serve as the State Policy Representative with the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I am a voting member of the Legislative and Public Policy Committee of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The MCH nutrition leadership training program has provided me with the fundamentals to make a difference in the communities that I work in and I am grateful for having had this experience.
One of the most valuable lessons from my time as a nutrition trainee in the Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition program at the University of California, Los Angeles is the importance of thinking and acting on a systems level to influence health. Over the past several years, the training program has focused on providing guidance to trainees and Title V partners across 13 western states in integrating Policy, Systems & Environmental (PSE) change strategies into work focused on improving maternal and child health. PSE approaches focus on influencing broader systems – like built environments, organizational practices, and policies – that play significant roles in shaping individual health behaviors. With technical assistance provided by the training program, state Title V partners have integrated PSE approaches into programmatic work as well as including as components of their state strategic plans.
As a doctoral student, I am applying this systems-thinking framework to my dissertation research, which focuses on understanding the relationship between infant feeding practices and early childhood obesity among children participating in the WIC program. I hope to use my research findings to influence policies and institutional practices that will make it easier for low-income mothers to breastfeed, and that make healthy foods more accessible to families during the period when complementary foods are introduced to infants. While educating mothers and families on the significant benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of introducing healthy foods at appropriate developmental stages is undoubtedly important, it is exceptionally difficult for families to implement these recommendations without supportive environments.
I am confident that beginning my career with a systems-thinking framework will make me a more impactful MCH researcher and leader, and for that I am immensely grateful to the training program leadership.
Katie O'Bar "Time With TAG"
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center LEND Trainee
My experience with MCH began in 2017 at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Center for Developmental Disabilities, where I served as a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) trainee while also completing my dietetic internship and master's courses at the University of Memphis. I remember joining the rest of my cohort on our first training day and learning about the history and purpose of MCH, people first language, and patient-centered care. These are values that have stuck with me to this day and have shaped how I interact with patients and families. I am now working full time as a metabolic dietitian at the same facility where I completed my LEND training. This is something I do not take for granted; I feel lucky to be able to work with the same patients, families, and coworkers who taught me so much not only about the medical and nutritional management of these disorders, but also the importance of seeing the patient as a whole.
I am fortunate to be able to interact with current trainees at UTHSC and encourage them to take advantage of all the interdisciplinary opportunities LEND offers. As a dietitian, it is important that we are aware of the other disciplines that help to manage treatment like speech therapy, social work, and psychology. Likewise, we can share the importance of nutrition in MCH populations and provide input from our perspective. I feel like my LEND experience gave me a deeper understanding of what services the other disciplines can offer and how that can be helpful in striving to provide patient-centered care.
One of the best parts of TAG is getting to connect with fellow MCH trainees from other programs. It is inspiring to see how although we come from diverse backgrounds and are involved in different areas of practice, we still have the same mission of wholeheartedly serving MCH populations. While this year has brought many unprecedented challenges, I am proud of how everyone has continued to work towards this common goal. I am looking forward to staying involved with this community and continuing to foster a collaborative environment for future trainees.
University at Albany MCH Catalyst Trainee
Through her internship, MPH and MCH certificate student Leanna Komoroske is applying her education in creative ways to help improve maternal and child health in the capital region during the coronavirus pandemic— including through cooking demonstration videos on YouTube.
As an intern with Brightside Up's Health Education and Services team, Komoroske is working on the organization's Farm to Preschool (F2P) program, an initiative funded by the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education and the New York State Department of Health that aims to increase access to locally grown produce for children and their families while reducing cost barriers.
University of Washington School of Public Health MCH Nutrition Trainee
My thesis and MCH traineeship project at the University of Washington School of Public Health, published in JAMA in July 2020, sought to evaluate the association of the federal policy – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – on child dietary quality for children participating in the National School Lunch Program. This policy was one of Michelle Obama's signature health policy initiatives signed into law in 2010 and implemented in July 2012 as a national policy that required changes to the program's school nutrition standards—the guidelines that all meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program must adhere to.
Studies have shown that the dietary quality of meals served to children have improved in association with implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2012. However, it was unknown whether children were actually eating this healthier food to improve overall dietary quality. This study fills a key knowledge gap by assessing whether children's overall dietary intake changed in association with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Our findings suggest that the original policy implemented in 2012 (and in place until minor changes in 2018) was associated with higher dietary quality for lunch among low income, low-middle income, and middle-high income children from pre- to post-policy implementation for participants in the National School Lunch Program. The changes in HEI-2010 lunch score equate to a 30% increase for low income, a 31% increase for low-middle income, and a 19% increase for middle-high income in dietary quality score for participants pre- to post-policy, above and beyond the change for non-participants.
The results from our study suggest that the stricter nutrition standards in the HHFKA improve dietary quality for students who participate in the school lunch program which is likely to help maintain healthy weight, reduce the risk for chronic diseases and improve cognitive function and academic performance among children.
Kennedy Krieger Institute LEND Trainee
LEND Trainee Receives Johns Hopkins Research Award
Eric Chin, MD, a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) trainee at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, was recognized for the Best Overall Scientific Presentation in Education and Clinical Research Scholarship at the Johns Hopkins Department of Pediatrics Scholarly Achievement Day for his work on pain in people with cerebral palsy. Chronic pain impacts the majority of individuals with cerebral palsy by adulthood and may significantly limit function. His studies have attempted to understand the complex relationships between physical, cognitive and sociocultural factors.
He and his collaborators have shown close linkages between the intensity of the chronic pain, sensory deficits, extreme prematurity and household poverty and specific patterns of perinatal brain injury are closely linked. The long term goal of Dr. Chin's research is to create evidence based treatments that will result in individualized pain treatment plans that will improve the quality of life those with cerebral palsy and their families. Dr. Chin's mentors for these projects are Dr. Shenandoah Robinson of the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery and Alexander Hoon, Jr., MD, MPH, himself a former LEND trainee, Director, The Phelps Center for Cerebral Palsy and Neurodevelopmental Medicine at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Maternal and Child Health Student Organization President, Drexel University MCH Public Health Catalyst Trainee
In March 2020, with one week left in the winter term, Drexel University moved all regularly scheduled in-person activities online. Although this sudden change felt overwhelming, the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) began planning innovative solutions for virtual engagement in order to keep group members engaged with emerging literature and changes to the practice of public health. Throughout the spring term, we hosted virtual Journal Club discussions regarding the impact of infectious disease outbreaks on sexual and reproductive health and the effect of maternal stress during pregnancy. These topics allowed us to evaluate what we were currently seeing occur, as well as what we predicted would manifest, as COVID-19 continued to impact our systems. In addition to the Journal Club discussions, we also organized a virtual Speaker Series webinar in which we hosted Philadelphia-based MCH organizations and learned how their challenges, strategies, and partnerships were impacted by COVID-19. Having worked closely with at least one of these local organizations in the past, the MCHSO executive board sought to understand what these groups needed in order to adapt to their new reality. This session was incredibly useful not only because Drexel students and faculty were able to learn from our community partners, but also because these groups were able to connect with each other and share strategic advice regarding common obstacles. Most recently, MCHSO organized a virtual trivia night where individuals tested their MCH knowledge and competed for gift-card prizes. This social activity allowed us to once again engage with MCH-related content and provided an important opportunity for connection and engagement among organization members. As a whole, the virtual transition of all university related activities was challenging and did require creative strategizing and utilization of resources. However, by working as a team with the guidance of our faculty mentors, MCHSO leadership was able to direct the organization to actively participate in virtual MCH activities that analyzed emerging challenges for our national and local systems. Even as so much is still unknown about what our fall term will look like, we plan to continue generating innovative solutions in order to maintain virtual engagement.
Florida International University MCH Catalyst Trainee
Osmari Novoa has always been interested in global MCH, especially when it comes to improving the lives of Afro-Latinx women. She was initially poised to complete her summer practicum at the Universidad Privada San Juan Bautista (Lima, Peru) to investigate the effects of migration and other factors on STI risk among immigrant populations in Peru. When international travel restrictions were put into place because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Osmari quickly shifted her focus to domestic MCH issues and secured an internship with the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade (HSCMD), a community-based non-profit organization statutorily designated and funded by the State of Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to serve as Miami-Dade County's prenatal and infant care coalition. HSCMD partners with local community-based organizations and healthcare professionals to plan, coordinate and provide high quality health and education services to women in childbearing age, children from birth to age three, and their families. Osmari is working closely with HSCMD and a team of MCH Catalyst Program faculty at FIU to implement and assess the feasibility of Count the Kicks, a free mobile app that allows an expectant mother to easily monitor fetal movements during her last trimester of pregnancy and reduce the risk of stillbirth. Stillbirth among Miami-Dade Black women remains staggeringly high; it is almost three times higher among Blacks than among Whites (14.0 vs. 4.9/1000 births). The objectives of Osmari's practicum are to conduct a pilot phase rollout of the app among high-risk pregnant women, assess the women's perceptions of using the app, and provide recommendations for larger scale implementation of the app. In her own words, Osmari has been able to compliment her classroom experiences and assignments in ways she never imagined. "This practicum is perfect for me because it has allowed me to gain experience in not only working directly with a community-based MCH organization, but what it is like to specifically conduct research embedded within a CBO and in collaboration with a university. My coursework has definitely prepared me for this experience, and I am excited to now use my expertise to improve the lives of women and families in South Florida." As a result of her involvement with HSCMD, Osmari is now a member of the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Board of Miami-Dade. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she will serve as president of Leaders in Maternal and Child Health, FIU's MCH student interest group.
Natalie Cerda, MD, MPH
Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, Division of Developmental Medicine, Harvard Medical School
This year as a developmental-behavioral pediatrics fellow, I have had the opportunity to work closely with my division's quality improvement team to investigate the effectiveness of telemedicine for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in young children. The rapid uptake of telemedicine that has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique and timely opportunity to study the acceptability and feasibility of telediagnostic evaluations for ASD, with the potential to lead to lasting changes in our current care model. Developing innovative and efficient models of care in developmental-behavioral pediatrics is critical given the longstanding shortage of specialists in this field. As part of our quality improvement project, our team aims to improve the family and clinician experience with telediagnostic ASD evaluations in young children. We intend to promote optimal telemedicine care within our division through quality improvement methodologies including rapid cycle modifications and Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles to test different change concepts. A secondary aim involves incorporating a health equity focus by examining whether disparities in care may result from this new method of care delivery. Our work is supported by a Boston Children's Hospital CEO COVID Research Award and a Boston Children's Hospital Program for Patient Safety & Quality (PPSQ) Grant.
Time With TAG
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill MCH Center of Excellence Trainee
Why I Chose to Study Maternal and Child Health
In my family, the children are welcome in every space. Growing up in Oklahoma, I played with toy cars in my grandparents' closet; filmed movies with my cousins in my parents' room; stayed up late with the adults in the living room, and then fell asleep to the sound of their laughter and conversation. The adults welcomed me to speak and join these conversations. They invited me to play games, go on vacations, plan parties, cook, shop, get ready and go out together. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and older cousins were warm, and kind and funny. They taught me to welcome with open arms those who need it most: children. Those with innocent eyes, hearts longing for love and guidance because everything in this world is new to them.
I carried this value of children and firm belief in establishing not only their safety, but their sense of self-worth, of belonging, throughout my adult life. When I read about the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) program at the UNC in Chapel Hill, I knew it was the place for me. I would learn from experts in the field who valued children as much as I did, and who knew ways of changing our systems that fail to provide services children need to achieve their full potential: a quality education in a safe environment, access to healthy and affordable food, safe places to play, a secure place to call home, and a family to go home to.
I graduated this May after submitting my thesis where I reviewed literature on the unjust exclusions of Black girls from the U.S. public school system, and I plan to continue emphasizing the educational and mental health needs of Black and Brown girls in my MCH career. During my master’s program, we discussed the power of establishing "health in all policies." I would like to promote the idea of "children in all policies" throughout my MCH career and the necessity of centering children, especially girls from marginalized communities, in our thoughts, ideas for the future, products we buy, people we vote for, companies we support, infrastructure development and research. Consider what our society would look if all children grew into their full potential. What would their influence look like? I imagine our world would be a much better place...And I long to see it.
Now that I have graduated, I am fortunate to continue this work and collaborate with other MCH trainees and professionals this year through the Trainee Ambassador Group. I am a member of the article club committee and application committee, and recognize how valuable it is to work with and learn from MCH trainees across the country. I am proud to be a part of this community.
So, if I am asked why I went into Maternal and Child Health, I don't have to look very far. Only back at my childhood, at the image I have of me coming back home to Oklahoma after my first semester at UNC: my family in the living room, waiting for me with open arms.
Cathy Yount, MPH
Children's Hospital Los Angeles LEND Trainee
I became a LEND Trainee while completing my Master of Public Health degree. I was interested in the intersection of biology and society, and how policy and sociology shape our bodies and our understanding of them. I have extensive experience working one on one with children with special healthcare needs and wanted to learn more about these conditions in an interdisciplinary, academic setting. LEND offered just that opportunity: through LEND I learned about the best practices of care for a variety of health conditions and neurodevelopmental differences, as well as about the policy infrastructure around maternal and child health and disabilities. I learned about the complexities of living with or caring for someone who lives with a special healthcare need from a variety of healthcare professionals, as well as from individuals, families, and advocates navigating the healthcare system.
I went on to apply skills and knowledge I gained from LEND at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, where I am part of a team working to understand the health implications of different policies and how public policy impacts vulnerable populations, including children and those with pre-existing conditions. Although I love working in policy research, my next career steps will take me in a slightly different direction. I will be starting a PhD in Epidemiology this fall at the University of Rochester where I plan to focus my research on how exposures and experiences during pregnancy can impact the health outcomes for both mothers and children. I can confidently say that LEND gave me the knowledge, motivation and skills I needed to apply for this program, and I hope to use my research skills to improve maternal and child health.
Although I have chosen to pursue epidemiology, I continue to be passionate about adjacent fields, such as health policy. It is for this reason that I am enthusiastic about participating in the Trainee Ambassador Group. I am thrilled to be a part of a group that is focused on connecting trainees across disciplines who have a common goal. I hope, that as I pursue my degree, I can continue to stay connected to colleagues doing other types of work to impact maternal and child health, and I know that the activities facilitated by the TAG will be a great place to start.
Breanna Chachere (pictured left)
Centers of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health, Boston University School of Public Health
Alexandra Trautman (pictured right)
MCH Public Health Catalyst, Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University
You developed a plenary session with two other Ambassadors who you had never met before. What was your experience like collaborating virtually?
Breanna: Working with Vanessa and Alex was a wonderful experience. In our first few meetings, we were able to quickly identify a shared goal and vision for our session that was centered on input from our broader virtual TAG group meetings. When we first started planning for the MLC Tag session, we were planning for an in-person meeting in Nashville. This year, we faced unparalleled challenges due to COVID-19, but our team was able to quickly and seamlessly revamp our entire presentation, because of a shared commitment to seeing the work through. This required more coordination, more meetings across time zones and ultimately efficient efforts and I’m proud and so grateful we were able to rise to the challenge to deliver an amazing final presentation.
Alex: It was a great experience! Everyone was respectful of each other’s time and other commitments and worked efficiently. We were also respectful of each other’s suggestions and were able to bounce ideas off each other in a productive way. I do not feel as though anyone else would have been able to detect that we had never worked together before. Although I am bummed that I did not get to meet Breanna and Vanessa in person, I am thankful we were able to present something we were all proud of.
How did the skills you acquired in your MCH training program help prepare you for the TAG presentation?
Breanna: My time as a student at the Boston University School of Public Health MCH Center of Excellence emphasized MCH leadership skills necessary for young professionals to be successful and to meet any challenges that arise in both professional and personal spaces. In my time there, I learned how to be flexible and adaptive, which was key in helping our TAG group to remain calm, and quickly and efficiently rework our plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a graduate student, I also participated and was the president of the MCHB funded student organization, MCH in Action. My role as president and service coordinator taught me how to help other students grow their leadership skills and expand their MCH professional networks. Ultimately, I am grateful that my program instilled the value of collaborative and dynamic teamwork that helped me be successful in virtual and in-person spaces.
Alex: My MCH training program provided me with the leadership and collaboration skills necessary to plan a presentation with two other people in completely different states! It also helped foster my passion for the MCH field which I think is important when tasked with presenting at a MCH conference. Additionally, my MCH program helped fund my trip to MLC last year so I was also able to provide the perspective of a previous attendee while working with this team.
What factors did you consider when developing the TAG presentation?
Breanna: In keeping with the theme of TAG, Embrace the Possibilities in Career Development, our initial goal was to offer an opportunity for speed networking so that attendees might practice their elevator pitch and grow more confident in their ability to meet and network with trainees across disciplines. After the decision was made to transition to a virtual space, we realized that it would be challenging to have a virtual speed networking session. Instead, we decided to use the opportunity to introduce attendees to the Trainee Starter Kit, a presentation developed by former MCH trainees, that can be delivered by any trainee at their respective institutions and organizations. Our hopes with this presentation were that it would equip attendees with the knowledge necessary to share more important information about MCHB with other trainees at their sites and to also give an opportunity to highlight the wonderful things that the TAG group is working on so that attendees may join some of our virtual networks and opportunities.
Alex: I enjoyed last year that the TAG presentation was a chance for participants to get up and stretch their legs and I was really excited about our speed networking opportunity. I really appreciated the strong networking focus last year at MLC in which they provided everyone with business cards and gave time for us to chat with others. When we learned that we would be going virtual we knew that it would be more difficult to incorporate those physical networking aspects but thought it would be a perfect opportunity to run through our trainee toolkit. It also allowed us the chance to get feedback on the toolkit and some of our other activities, such as the social media ambassadors and article club, through a survey.
What did you like the best about attending the virtual MLC sessions?
Breanna: The final event that the MLC planning committee put together was amazing, given the challenges needed to restructure a 3-day conference into a single-day online webinar. I am so impressed with how quickly and efficiently everyone worked together to develop sessions that were still interactive, motivating and comprehensive to meet the theme of truly Embracing All Possibilities. I particularly enjoyed MCHB Associate Administrator Dr. Michael Warren who championed the need for us all to Accelerate Upstream Together. His talk really cemented the future that lies ahead, both for addressing health inequities related to maternal and child health outcomes, but also for addressing the needs of all communities, particularly the vulnerable populations that will be most affected by COVID-19.
Alex: I loved getting to hear people share their experiences and their research that I probably otherwise would have never heard from. The MLC is an amazing opportunity to bring people, united by their passion for MCH, who are from different places, different MCH programs, with different MCH interests, all together in one space. I would have loved to have met everyone in Nashville, but I was truly impressed by how much variety was included in the one-day virtual session.
Would you recommend MLC to other trainees in the future?
Breanna: Most definitely, while I am sad that I did not get the in-person experience of MLC, I still left the MLC virtual sessions motivated and committed to building a better and stronger MCH workforce. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my MCH professional network through participation in the day’s events. One of the key takeaways for me after attending MLC was how to build a personal/professional brand online with regard to social media presence and how to best separate professional vs personal social media accounts. We live in a world where social media dominates many of our lives. This was true before COVID-19 and now going forward after COVID-19, it is even more relevant. As such, it is so vital that we learn how to navigate an online world that we can leverage to move forward in our careers, share information and advocate for MCH populations, while also having the space to connect more intimately with friends and family. The MLC was so timely and gave valuable knowledge for me to do just that. I look forward to what the committee prepares for next year’s group of trainees and attendees.
Alex: Absolutely! I had been looking forward to the 2020 MLC since attending the conference last year. It is amazing and refreshing to be surrounded by professionals with a similar passion while also learning so much from them. You also really get to know other attendees well unlike some of the bigger conferences that can be more overwhelming.
Armando Peña, MS
Arizona State University MCH Nutrition Trainee
Armando Peña is a PhD student in the Exercise and Nutritional Sciences program in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University (ASU). Armando has been a TRANSCEND (Translational Training, Education and Leadership Program in MCH Nutrition and Childhood Obesity Prevention) Trainee, as part of ASU’s MCHB-funded training grant in MCH Nutrition, since Fall 2018 and is a leader amongst his peers. Armando’s research interests are in in the underlying physiological mechanisms responsible for the prevention of type 2 diabetes among high-risk youth following lifestyle interventions.
Armando has been highly productive as a doctoral student in the TRANSCEND Program. As part of his first project with the TRANSCEND Program, under the guidance of his mentor Dr. Gabriel Shaibi, Armando evaluated a pragmatic estimate of insulin sensitivity for use among high-risk (for type 2 diabetes) youth and published this work in Clinical Obesity. This work provides a measurement tool for other researchers to utilize, especially under budgetary constraints (i.e., large intervention studies, junior faculty). Armando’s second project for TRANSCEND explores the response heterogeneity of insulin sensitivity to lifestyle intervention among Latino youth with obesity. This study utilizes advanced structural equation modeling techniques to analyze longitudinal data and identify distinct types of responders to the same lifestyle intervention. Youth that did not respond to lifestyle intervention were among the most severely insulin resistant, glucose intolerant, and obese. This is an important paper for the field of pediatric obesity and diabetes prevention that has precision medicine implications and is currently undergoing edits by co-authors in preparation for submission to the high-impact journal, Diabetes Care.
In late 2019, Armando submitted an F31 application to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestion, and Kidney (NIDDK). His application received an Overall Impact Score of 21 and was accompanied by optimistic remarks from his Program Officer at NIDDK. If funded, Armando will continue to explore the effects of lifestyle intervention on key inflammatory markers of type 2 diabetes risk and resilience among Latino youth with obesity and prediabetes as compared to a usual care control group.
The TRANSCEND program has boosted Armando’s training as a future independent scientist in the field of maternal and child health. Through his experience in the TRANSCEND Training program, Armando has become interested in other related research topics unveiled such as breastfeeding and lifestyle interventions on long-term health markers in both mom and child that are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Jamie Zeldman, B.S.
University of Florida Pediatric Pulmonary Center Trainee
As part of my Dietetic Internship experience, I had the opportunity to intern with the Pediatric Pulmonary Center at the University of Florida. I completed half of my traineeship part-time the semester before my Dietetic Internship began, and the other half full-time during my Dietetic Internship itself. Everyone on the interdisciplinary team is so genuine and inclusive, which really made me feel welcomed and comfortable as an intern. Our Core Curriculum Leadership Seminars took place in-person the semester before the start of my Dietetic Internship. The Seminars emphasized the importance of leadership and interdisciplinary care management, which I felt was very beneficial as I progressed through my various Dietetic Internship rotations.
As I approached my time to come back to the PPC for the latter half of my traineeship in April, there were a lot of unknowns considering COVID-19. Several other rotations were cancelled as a result, so I feel very thankful that despite everything going on, the PPC Faculty Nutritionist, Ellen Bowser, as well as the rest of the PPC team, made this rotation possible for me. Although unconventional, I was happy to still be able to attend various interdisciplinary meetings, Cystic Fibrosis Clinic and Sleep Clinic. I had the opportunity to observe a wide variety of patients and learned a great deal along the way, both in-person last year and through telehealth this year. Although I wish I was able to be there in-person for the latter half of my time with the PPC, I feel as if virtually being back with the team was the best-case scenario in this situation. I appreciate everything the PPC has done not only for me during my time at the PPC, but also for what they do day-to-day for their patients, especially during these crazy times. Thank you to the PPC team at the University of Florida for such a memorable experience and for being such great role models.
Jessica Tanguay, MPH
University at Albany School of Public Health MCH Catalyst Trainee
I vividly remember the first time I walked through the doors of the University at Albany School of Public Health (UA SPH). I was meeting with the co-directors of the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program. Since that day, I have been mentored, challenged, and supported by a cadre of professors who offered more than summaries in textbooks. Through coursework, speaker’s series, networking events, and internships, I was able to witness the interconnected nature of MCH. Wanting to gain a better systemic understanding of various influences on health, I accepted an internship within the New York State (NYS) Department of Health where I worked alongside a team within the Bureau of Women, Infant, and Adolescent Health. I gathered and analyzed community data to support two comprehensive, multi-year statewide needs assessments for the MCH Services Block Grant Program and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
This past year, I was honored to be selected as a Women in Public Policy Fellow at the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) within Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. I am completing my policy field placement at the NYS Office of Mental Health, working alongside the Chief Managed Care Compliance Officer. In my specific role, I am assisting with compliance activities to ensure the Medicaid Managed Care Plans (MMCP) adhere to State and Federal regulations which include reviewing MMCP applications, policies and procedures, and data. As part of the fellowship cohort, I am surrounded by a dynamic, driven, and diverse group of women who desire to be agents of change at various levels of policy within NYS, nationally, and globally. The core values of the CWGCS are Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, Integrity, and Equality. Similarly, this is what we try to accomplish in many public health initiatives.
As my tenure at the UA SPH concludes, I realize that my next steps are more than just a series of occupational choices. I have been inspired by the SPH community to continuously fight to affect social change and increase health equity for communities and families. I look forward to combining my public health knowledge and policy experiences as I embark on a journey to collaboratively work alongside communities by supporting programs, policies, and other systemic solutions that will celebrate the community’s unique strengths and amplifying their voices.
Laurel Iverson Hitchcock
University of Alabama at Birmingham MCH Center of Excellence Trainee
Laurel Iverson Hitchcock is a former trainee of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science & Practice (CoE), having graduated with her Masters in Public Health (MPH) is the Spring of 1996. She came to the CoE with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology & Social Welfare from the University of Madison-Wisconsin and serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. After graduating with her MPH, Laurel went on to pursue a Masters and a PhD in Social Work from the University of Alabama. Prior to obtaining her PhD in 2009, Laurel worked as a licensed social worker in the State of Alabama and has over ten years of practice experience in diverse community settings including a homeless shelter, domestic violence prevention program, hospital emergency room, and community mental health. She joined the Social Work faculty of the University of Montevallo in 2009 as the Undergraduate Program Director for Social Work. In 2013, she joined the UAB Social Work faculty full-time and is now an Associate Professor of Social Work and the BSW Program Director.
Laurel’s research and pedagogical interests include social work education, technology and social media, social welfare history, and public health social work. Her dissertation research focused on the development of the federal program for children with special health care needs (CSHCN) under the US Children’s Bureau during the 1930s. In 2012, she received the SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching for her work incorporating different social media assignments into her courses. One of her current research projects examines the role of social and digital technologies as a tool for networking and collaborating in professional practice, which she will be highlighting at the MCH Making Lifelong Connections 2020 Conference in Nashville, TN this April. She is the co-director for the Institute for Healthy Engagement and Resilience with Technology (iHeartTech) at the University at Buffalo's School of Social Work, and she blogs at Teaching & Learning in Social Work. Laurel credits her time as an MCH trainee with her passion for interprofessional education. She is an Interprofessional Leadership Fellow with the UAB Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation and is active in facilitating interprofessional education activities across UAB.
University of Alabama at Birmingham MCH Nutrition Trainee
Prior to my training with the MCH Nutrition program at UAB, I had not had any experience working as part of an interdisciplinary team. Through this traineeship, I have learned the importance and significance of teamwork in a medical setting, and how a collaborative approach can benefit patients. Sharing different perspectives allow for a more comprehensive assessment and therefore contributes to a greater experience for patients receiving care. Working with such an intelligent group of multidisciplinary leaders, not only challenged me as a healthcare professional, but also as a person. My team at UAB encouraged me to continue to grow my knowledge and taught me how to get involved in the community through different events and avenues. I am extremely thankful for the group of medical professionals at UAB and their involvement in helping me become the leader and professional I am today.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee MCH Pipeline Trainees
MA Candidate, Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University
Kong started in Pipeline as a freshman (his sister has been in our program and so she prompted him to apply immediately). He participated in a Title V Internship, graduated with a BS degree in Nutrition Sciences, and went on to the Zilber School of Public Health (he will graduate in May 2020). He just received a Public Health Fellowship through the University of WI-Madison. His Masters capstone is examining data from Trio programs, with a focus on understanding the characteristics of students from Trio who go on to and complete college compared to those who do not. He has a long-standing interest in educational opportunity related to health outcomes.
Raven (Wright) Smith
Former MCH Pipeline Trainee
Raven was a nursing major who distinguished herself with her love of research and her commitment to communities of color. She was the first Pipeline TAG ambassador (she also attended the "Making Lifelong Connections" annual meeting in her senior year). She graduated with her BSN and went on to a Nursing Residency at Duke. Just this past fall she began steps toward her PhD and she was recently admitted to the Nursing PHD with a focus on Public Health at Chapel Hill. She has a full ride for 5 years to support her degree.