Public Health Community Scholarships – Applications Due

The School of Public Health is now accepting applications for Public Health Community Scholarships, available to MPH students who are currently in their first year of study. These scholarships are made possible by generous funding from an anonymous donor. We anticipate that funds will be available for a cohort beginning in June 2016.

Up to five first-year MPH students will be named Public Health Community Scholars.  Awardees will receive a monthly stipend of $1,000 during their 3-month summer MPH Practicum and the following academic year that completes the student’s graduate study. Additionally, a tuition waiver will be provided for the second year of MPH coursework. In return, students will work 20 hours per week during their 3-month summer practicum at a community location and will continue working 20 hours/week at that location during the following academic year. Preference is given to students with a history of contribution to health improvement in the Memphis metropolitan area, have high academic qualifications, and are in need of financial assistance. Advisor recommendation is required.

Please see the attached application and advisor recommendation forms

Public Health Comm Scholar Application

Public Health Comm Scholar Advisor Recommendation

The deadline for applications: December 20th (midnight)

Please submit your application to the SPH Assistant Dean via email at Students are responsible for asking their advisor to submit a recommendation.  The advisor recommendation is to be sent directly to Completed applications (including application form, essay, and advisor recommendation) must be received by December 20th at midnight. The Scholarship Committee will announce awardees by January 31st.

Student Spotlight – Bhavin Chauhan

Bhavin1. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I am originally from India, and came to America when I was 11 months old. I grew up in two different states. First being in Texas until the 4th grade, and later Michigan until 2012, where I then moved to Tennessee.

2. What previous degrees and educational experiences have you earned?

I have earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies here at the University of Memphis. I have also worked in several biology related fields such as pharmacy tech, nurse assistant, bioresearch, and lab analyst.

3. Where do you work?

Currently, I work as a Graduate Assistant for Tiger Blue Goes Green event, under the supervision of Dr. Levy. I plan to continue working here at School of Public Health with Dr. Jia and Dr. Banerjee in the department of Environmental Health.

4. What got you interested in public health?

The environment is what got me interested in Public Health; particularly global environment problems/disasters. I realized that longevity and good health can be achieved for everyone if we solve the environmental problems that occur daily and affect us in many ways. It is not enough to just cure the disorder, but rather prevent and eliminate the possibility of it to occur. As often said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are all connected to the biosphere, and I believe that if we look at the larger picture to tackle the original upstream causes, our livelihood would benefit greatly.

5. Why did you choose our MPH program?

Having a passion for the environment, I interacted with many of my advisors and professors during my undergrad days about where I would like to be going next. After graduation, I had a wonderful opportunity to work in a cancer lab. It got me thinking about ways to prevent cancer and other health related diseases, which in large part are caused by environmental stressors. So I decided to visit the Public Health department at UofM, where I met Dr. Jia and Dr. Banerjee. After talking to them, I felt that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. 

6. What do you like most about our School of Public Health?

The students and faculty members is what I love most about our School of Public Health. Everyone at the school is so passionate about what they believe in and the changes they can make to the PH cause. The many qualities they keep at heart and show enthusiastically all play a role in SPH being a place of knowledge-driven, professionalism, and fun environment.

7. What one public health change would you like to see in the Memphis area?

I would like to see more initiations and actions towards environmental concerns that impact the greater Memphis. The particular environmental concerns would be the bio/chemical exposures that are prevalent in the city from air and food sources.

8. How would you like to apply your MPH degree to your future goals and career?

I would love to join the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My goal is to be involved in coordinating/consulting solutions for environmental problems throughout the nation, and bringing those ideas forward on a global scale.

9. What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about helping people and the environment. A harmonious co-existence of human, science, technology, and nature is something I would like to bring about. I would also like to advocate new methods and practices that can reverse the affects of current environmental damages caused by humans (climate change, global warming, etc.).

10. What are your hobbies/interests?

I love biking, hiking, working out, and hanging with friends. When I am indoors, I tinker around with computer software and electronics, read books, listen to music and on occasion play video games.

Student Spotlight – Sheena Mukkada


Interview Questions:

smukkada_LThumb1.       Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH.

2.       What previous degrees and educational experiences have you earned?

I received my AB (BA in any other school!) from Brown University in biology back in 2005. I then got my MD from the University of Cincinnati before completing a residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I’ve been a board certified pediatrician since 2013.

3.       Where do you work? 

I am currently a clinical fellow in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and split my service time between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

4.       What got you interested in public health?

I have seen in the literature a tendency to pit public health against medicine. While I agree that the medical establishment does not always espouse the same policy positions as the public health establishment, as a physician I truly believe that the goals of medicine and public health are one and the same. By optimally treating enough individual patients, we build a healthy society. In pediatrics, because so much of what we do involves education of parents, we are always aware of the need to improve the environment in which our patients live.  It is therefore a logical next step to focus on how we create systems to keep children healthy at a more global level.

5.       Why did you choose our MPH program?

I have to admit that my reasons for choosing The University of Memphis were practical. U of M offered flexible learning options like night classes which have allowed me to continue my clinical career while still being a student. I learn better from classroom interactions so I valued the chance to show up in person and see people’s faces!

6.       What do you like most about our School of Public Health?

I like the fact that the population of students taking classes through SPH is a nice blend of different ages, life experiences, and different career paths. I have learned more from people’s stories about the lives they have lived and the directions they want to go than from classroom experiences. I also have loved the way that professors gone out of their way to accommodate my often crazy work schedule so that I have been able to stay on target with my classes without getting fired!

7.       How would you like to apply your MPH degree to your future goals and career?

As an MD, I am asked every day to make decisions about my practice based on data drawn from the medical literature. Through the coursework involved with the MPH, I intend to gain the skillset to critically evaluate this literature  in order to determine how it really applies to my patient population. In addition, as part of my academic career, I intend to continue designing and implementing clinical research studies. The skill sets I gain through MPH coursework should enable me to ask intelligent questions about study design and analysis to build stronger studies and conclusions.

8.       What are you passionate about?

Professionally, I am most passionate about developing and testing interventions to treat and prevent infections in setting with limited resources. In my life before St. Jude, I was particularly interested in tuberculosis, and I still love that disease because of its complicated medical and social ramifications. I had the opportunity to work for a year in Kampala, Uganda for the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics conducting studies of new tuberculosis diagnostic tests and would have loved to continue that.  As my husband is a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow, that has forced some career modifications, so I’ve redirected my energies into trying to devise and validate best practices for infection care and prevention in pediatric oncology patients being treated at St. Jude partner sites throughout the world. My goal is to build models based on the experience of individual sites which we can then share with other sites to prevent them making avoidable mistakes while caring for children with cancer.

9.     What are your hobbies/interests?

My husband and I share a genetically predetermined love of cooking, and it is one of our favorite activities together. I especially love to bake bread, but admittedly haven’t had the time for it since starting the MPH. I haven’t gotten to discover as much of the outdoor area surrounding Memphis as I would like, but what brings me the most joy in life is the ability to walk around in the fresh air. Oddly, this is one thing I miss most about Los Angeles-we used to live right down the street from Griffith Park and we used to be able to go to Malibu on weekends to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains.  I’m not a runner, but I can happily walk for miles. I’m an evil person if I don’t get to the gym at least 5 times a week!

Practicum/Student Spotlight – Cyril Patra

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Hi! My name is Cyril Patra. This year I was selected as 1 of the 5 Public Health Community Scholar Awardees. This fellowship was awarded with an encouragement to contribute valuable research in hope for the improvement of the health status of our community. With this opportunity, I chose to work at the Shelby County Health Department in Vector Control for my practicum this summer. Going into the practicum, I was incredibly nervous. I’ve never worked hands-on with insects before! I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very excited to see what would transpire over the course of the summer.

JPEG image-17C3BACAF901-1I learned that the Vector Control department does many amazing things for the community. Specifically in mosquito vector control, the team works on West Nile surveillance in Shelby County. Everyday field workers go out into the county to collect nuisance mosquitoes from Jersey Light Traps and set up and collect Gravid traps for identification of vector borne mosquitoes to be sent to the State Health Department. Additionally, field workers spray insecticide to prevent mosquito population growth and collect mosquito larvae for identification which is then used to document and categorize the locations of where various mosquito species grow. It is a busy day at Vector Control, but there is great team work that keeps the work continuous and strong. What a great team! 

I originally planned to work at the Tuberculosis clinic at the Shelby County Health Department, but then a friend of mine, who currently works at Vector Control, informed me of what kind of work goes on there, and I was intrigued. I am interested in working in Global Health with a vector borne infectious disease focus, and here was an opportunity to learn about mosquitoes and other insects that have the potential to carry disease. So, I took it! I was also looking for a practicum that was data driven to be able to do my research for my thesis for the MPH program. I am so pleased with my decision to work at Vector Control. I have learned so much about mosquitoes from their anatomy and physiology to the insecticide mode of action. My mentor, Ture Carlson, has been a huge help as well. He supports my curiosity and patiently takes the time to answer any questions that I may have.  I really appreciate having a great mentor who takes the time to answer my questions and help me out when I need help, especially because this is my first time learning about entomology.

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Currently, I am working on a mosquito resistance study in Shelby County. Resistance to insecticide is a public health problem. The specific mosquito species I am working with is the Culex species. This species is known to be a vector for West Nile virus. Studying resistance in mosquitoes is important in our county because if there is a high level of resistance to the insecticide, there could be a risk of spread of West Nile Virus if it is present in the county. This will affect the health of our community. In my study, I collect, take care of, and run insecticide resistance tests on mosquitoes every day. A typical day includes spending 3 hours in the morning riding with field workers to aspirate mosquitoes around Shelby County and store them in my small trap. I then transport them to a larger trap with a small pool of water for the gravid mosquitoes to lay eggs, and I feed the mosquitoes with cotton swabs soaked in 10% sucrose water. I work specifically with female mosquitoes as they are the gender that bite for blood meals and have the potential to spread disease. I let the mosquitoes rest overnight, and then the next day I test them for insecticide resistance in the lab. 

In my research, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about entomology while working at this practicum location. By asking questions and encouraging discussions, I’ve learned about how mosquitoes transmit disease. Additionally, I’ve learned how to run lab tests on mosquitoes to test resistance. I’ve had the opportunity to apply what I learned my chemistry degree while working with insecticide chemicals and preparing my solutions to run tests. With the help of my colleagues and mentor, I’ve also had the opportunity to build a mosquito trap from scratch. That was great fun!

JPEG image-7DC6B9571D9B-1I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside great colleagues and learning from them. I also enjoy having an interactive project that keeps me engaged with my practicum. It provides an excellent teaching and learning platform.  

My interest in public health is in infectious disease, specifically in vector borne illnesses. Here at my practicum, I’ve had an interactive opportunity to learn about a key vector in spreading illness: the mosquito. I’ve had the privilege to ask our department entomologists questions and encourage discussions about malaria, dengue, and chikungunya. This opportunity to learn will benefit my future in vector borne infectious disease research and intervention.

Why should future students work at this practicum location?

If you are a hands-on kind of student, I highly recommend considering looking into the practicum at the Vector Control department of the Shelby County Health Department. It’s an opportunity to experience and participate in real world surveillance work and learn about public health impact in the community.  

What advice would you give to future students about finding a great practicum experience?

downloadDo your research. From the beginning of you graduate school career, begin networking and thinking about what you hope to gain out of the program and practicum. I encourage you to pay attention to things in class that catch your attention. Write it down, and then google it further- whether it be a compelling quote or astonishing statistic that moves you to take action. Find mentors by researching people who are working in the field and see how you can parallel their endeavors, but remember to always add you own creative contribution. Remember, public health is utilizing innovative research, data, interventions, and policy to serve and improve the health of the community; it takes teamwork to make a difference. Find your niche and then develop and integrate your talent and skills into it. Furthermore, I encourage you to keep your mind open to learning new things or learning new ways to do things. Step out of you comfort zone, and I guarantee you will gain a great experience. Be curious, ask questions, and stay connected. Good luck!

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