Practicum Spotlight – Sohely Perven

SohelyInterview Questions:

1.       Where are you completing your practicum? Where is it located?

I am completing my practicum through a collaboration project titled “NO HUNGRY SENIOR PROJECT”. The collaborators in this project are Baptist hospitals, Methodist Hospitals, Metropolitan Inter Faith Association (MIFA), Aging Commission, and the University of Memphis. I am one of the employee in this project at the University of Memphis.

2.    Tell us about this organization and how it contributes to public health.

The project is a collaboration of multiple organization. In this project, MIFA provides nutritious hot meal (Meals on Wheels in America ) to the elder people enrolled in the project who are over 60 years old, while Aging Commission provides different kind of programs for these elder people with disabilities.

3.       Why did you choose to go to this location?

The position became available in the Spring semester of this year, and I have applied for this position. Dr. Debra Bartelli has recruited me for this position with practicum opportunity.          

4.       What project(s) are you working on? What are you duties? What does a typical day of work look like?

I am working on “NO HUNGRY SENIOR PROJECT”. I am conducting statistical analysis on the collected data for this project. I usually receive instructions from Dr. Bartelli, and perform statistical analysis, and submit my findings to her.

5.       What new skills have you learned while working at this practicum location?

This opportunity has taught me practical applications of my coursework. For instance, I am applying data management and SAS programming software for my work.

6.    What have you liked most about your practicum experience?

I like the fact of practical applications of my knowledge garnered through the courses of MPH program. The concept of this project is to support the independence of vulnerable seniors who are in crisis situation and have poor nutrition. When I work on this project, I feel wonderful to be able to contribute to improve the quality of life of these elderly people who are alone, nutritiously poor, and in crisis situation. It make me realize that we should reflect more about seniors in our public health career.

7.       How has this practicum experience supplemented your MPH degree program and future public health career?

This practicum is supplemental to my MPH degree program as I am applying the knowledge and skills learned from the courses. In addition, as a public health student, I am feeling wonderful to be a part of this project as my practicum experience.

8.       Why should future students work at this practicum location?

Students should feel encouraged to work in such a project for their practicum, because they will be able to apply their knowledge in practical case study, as well as contribute in aiding of improvement to our senior situation.

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

My advice would be to keep an open mind in finding potential practicum opportunities, and attend events related to potential practicum opportunities.

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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Practicum Spotlight: SPH Haiti Trip

SPH Haiti Trip: An Introduction

This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Layaye, Haiti, a village in the Central Plateau, with a research team from the University of Memphis.  Our team consisted of six students and two mentors.  The students were: Carrie Jo, Cyril, Emma, Mary, Stephanie, and me (Sarah).  Our mentors were Dr. Debra Bartelli, a professor in the School of Public Health, and Steve Schmitt, an engineer and practicum preceptor.  Both Dr. Bartelli and Steve have worked on a variety of projects in Layaye for years.  Our collective goals were to learn more about water quality, water filtration systems, perceptions of health, and health education in and around Layaye. In addition to our research team, we traveled and worked with a group of volunteers from the Haiti Outreach Ministry at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (IC) in Memphis.  The IC volunteers consisted of two families—the Khouzams and the Galvins—who had projects ranging from medical clinics to basketball camps for kids.

It’s hard for me to explain our time in Haiti because no matter how well I describe the experiences, sounds, smells, and sights, words don’t seem to do them justice.  There is no way to capture the stifling heat and humidity that meets you when you get off the plane in Port-au-Prince—and that’s coming from a girl who was born and raised in the Mississippi River delta.  There are no words that can truly encompass the experience of peeling a ripe mango and taking your first bite, sticky hands wiping the juice from your chin as you grin.  You can’t help but smile; they taste too good.  Nothing can really describe the feeling you get from encountering so much generosity in a place where people have relatively little to give.  From the family that opened their home for all of us to stay in when our bus couldn’t make it to Layaye the first night to the man who brought us a basket full of avocados and mangos to take home with us when we departed, everyone showed us incredible kindness.  Haiti taught us all so much—and not just about our research topics.

Over course of this semester, we plan to feature entries from members of our group.  Our hope is that by hearing different perspectives about our experiences and research projects, you will have a better idea of what we did, the relationships we built, and how much we each learned.  Here are some pictures to get the story started…


Photo: Cyril Patra with the help of Dr. Dan Gentry

Excited for our 5.30 A.M. flight! Our research team at the airport, minus Steve (he was already there).  Top (left to right): Emma, Dr. Bartelli, Mary, Cyril.  Bottom (left to right): Carrie Jo, me (Sarah), and Stephanie.

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Photo: Sarah Boop

The landscape around Layaye: mountainous and tropical.  Houses are generally a bit spread out, as most families consist of subsistence farmers.  We hiked through the mountains from house to house to interview families and collect water samples. 

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Photo: Mary Powers

Some of our group collecting research at one of the houses near Layaye.

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Photo: Mary Powers

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisted of family-style meals provided by Father Camy (the priest at Notre Dame d’Altagrace) and his amazing cooks.  From left to right around the table: Father Camy, Dr. Bartelli, Steve, Emma, Mary, Carrie Jo, me, Ernso, Franz, and Fan Fan (our amazing translators). 

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Photo: Sarah Boop

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Photo: Mary Powers

Many people in and around Layaye get their water from springs like these. 

Author: Sarah Boop