Two UTHealth School of Public Health students have received the 2016 Excellence in Public Health Award from the United States Public Health Service.
The award is given to medical students who are involved in public health issues in their communities and who increase awareness of the U.S. Public Health Service’s mission to protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation. Students Ms. Courtney Baker and Mr. Jay Venkat Karri are pursing MD/MPH degrees through UTHealth School of Public Health with the MD portions being done at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and the John P. and Katherine G. McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, respectively.
[Photo: Ms. Courtney Baker (left) and Mr. Jay Venkat Karri]
This is the third consecutive year the award has been given to a student representing the UTHealth School of Public Health MD/MPH program with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
“Our students are tackling some of the nation’s most pressing public health problems,” says Dr. Eric Boerwinkle, dean of the School of Public Health. “Their diligence and commitment have earned them this honor.”
Ms. Baker, a fourth-year medical student, received her award for the breadth of her public health activities, including helping families adopt healthy habits as an intern for the Texas Children’s Health Plan “Keep Fit!” program, and coordinating monthly well-woman clinics at the Union Gospel Mission student-run free clinics. She also crafted resolutions for the Texas Medical Association Medical Student Section on sterile syringe exchange programs, e-cigarette hazards and sales to minors, and improving access to drugs that reduce opioid overdose.
“I hope to utilize the skills I have acquired through my MPH at the level of health care policy and advocacy, specifically in the realm of women’s health,” says Ms. Baker, a native of Plano, Texas. She will graduate from the UT Southwestern Medical School in May, and begin a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern in July. Her husband, Mr. Steven Blake Baker is a past recipient of the award and is earning his MD/MPH at UTHealth School of Public Health and McGovern Medical School.
Mr. Karri graduates this may from the McGovern Medical School. His research focuses on improving outcomes for traumatic brain injury, a problem with major public health impact. Half of all patients with traumatic brain injury experience bleeding in the brain, called progressive hemorrhagic injury (PHI). These patients fare worse and are more likely to die. Mr. Karri and his mentor, Dr. John Holcomb, professor of surgery at McGovern Medical School and director of the Center for Translational Injury Research, are investigating a class of genetic markers associated with brain bleeds.
“This information could help better predict, treat and clinically manage progressive hemorrhagic injury,” says Mr. Karri, who became interested in traumatic brain injury after learning that the condition is a leading cause of death and disability for persons younger than 45.