Enrollment in the Public Health Sciences Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst continues to grow. In the fall 2015, nearly 800 students had chosen public health as their major. UMass Amherst undergraduates serve as leaders both on campus (e.g. peer advisors, peer health educators, and resident hall assistants) and off. Undergraduate students participate in a broad array of public health programs that impact local, state, national, and international communities.
In the spring of 2016, the Public Health Sciences program held the first ever Career Network and Development Conference for majors. The conference, co-sponsored by the SPHHS, the Western Massachusetts Public Health Academic Consortium Group, and UMass Amherst Career Services and Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS), featured panel discussions on big picture employment in public health, roundtable networking sessions, vendor booths, and a special keynote presentation on public health at the federal, state, and local levels. Conference sessions helped prepare students for transition from college into the public health workforce.
Some examples of student involvement in public health include:
Each academic year, over 80 students participate in internships throughout the Commonwealth. Bianca Agustin interned at the Center for Women and Community, an organization dedicated to addressing violence in Hampshire County. Agustin helped survivors of rape and domestic violence and underrepresented populations across Hampshire County gain access to free and culturally competence services. Agustin has a commitment to health equity and says, “Social justice and health equity must be addressed within the public health and healthcare field in order to improve health outcomes.” Agustin plans to pursue MPH in Health Policy and Management in order to continue her work.
Lauren da Fonte interned for the Global Health Corps (GHC) in New York City. GHC focuses on health equity and health as a human right. The internship allowed da Fonte to interact and learn from public health professionals around the world. She learned a great deal about non-profit management and learned different ways to think about public health and healthcare systems by examining systems in Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia.
Haydee Jacobs worked with Dr. Alicia Timme-Laragy examining the effect of MEHP, a chemical used in PVC piping and medical tubing on zebrafish embryos. MEHP is easily leaked into the environment and may have significant impact on pancreatic development of the zebrafish. Jacobs presented her research at the annual meetings of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine and the Society for Toxicology.
Sri Durga Devi Kolla worked with Dr. Laura Vandenberg in her study of BPA and health outcomes in mice. Kolla’s work led to her selection for the Corrine A. Johnson Memorial Scholarship, an award provided to exceptional students who demonstrate interest and promise in Environmental Health Sciences.
Samantha Giffen participated in an NSF sponsored Water, Safety, and Health program for undergraduate students. She spent a summer in South Africa where she tested ceramic filters that remove fluoride from groundwater. She was selected for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence and Education Program.
Bright Osajie participated in a practice experience through his study abroad program in Thailand. In this practicum, Osajie had the opportunity to learn about risk assessments and using data to pose solutions to community health problems. Osajie focused on dental and nutritional health of local Thai communities. Through this opportunity Bright was able to visit rural villages and witness first hand local health issues and interventions. Osajie and fellow students developed nutritional and dental health educational programming for local populations.
Naomi Fedna conducted community health work in Haiti. Her work focuses on bringing together the arts and public health and using art for social change and improved health. Building on work completed during the academic year, Fedna applied for funding to implement a summer program. in a small community called Bellabe in the southern province of Haiti. The program is going to target children between the ages of six and 17 who are undernourished and underweight.
The Public Health Club is a student run organization that provides those interested in a career in public health the opportunity to participate in community service. This past year public health undergraduate students helped sort over 3,000 pounds of food for local communities.