Minority Health International Research Training Program Positions Students for Future Success

by Jayanni Webster, MHIRT Program Assistant

CBU prides itself on effective and enjoyable teaching. An integral part of such teaching is having students perform research internships. There are different ways for students to perform their research: with a CBU professor, a researcher at another local institution such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), or with a researcher participating in grant funded research in the U.S.

Participants in the 2014 MHIRT projects presented the results from their summer international research experiences on September 27, 2014.

Participants in the 2014 MHIRT projects presented the results from their summer international research experiences on September 27, 2014.

In addition to the above opportunities, CBU is pleased to provide an excellent opportunity to do this research via Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) internships at sites in Brazil and Uganda. MHIRT is an innovative science and research initiative that provides funded summer research opportunities for students in basic science, public health education, and qualitative projects. Started in 2000, MHIRT is a major collaborative project involving CBU and other regional academic institutions. Because the program serves underrepresented students in these fields it offers these unique research experiences at no cost to individuals through an all-expenses paid stipend funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald, CBU Professor of Biology, and Dr. Julia HanebrinkPsych 2001,, Adjunct Lecturer of Anthropology at CBU and Assistant Professor at Rhodes College, co-direct the MHIRT Program. These faculty assist in the recruitment of students locally at their institutions. Students and faculty travel to these countries to conduct research on biomedical and behavioral health disparities in collaboration with leading scientists and researchers from foreign universities and community organizations. Approximately 15 students participate in this MHIRT program each year in the summer after having participated in preparation workshops—including language lessons—the prior spring.

This year, the National Institutes of Health renewed CBU’s MHIRT grant for five years. The grant funding of $1.3 million extends the MHIRT program through 2019. CBU’s program has been funded by NIH for 15 continuous years, and the successful renewal is largely due to efforts by Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald and Julia Hanebrink, pictured in the image above at far left and right respectively.

CBU student Daryl Stephens (Psych ’14), poses with Susan, secretary, finance and liaisons officer at the Ishaka Health Plan where she did research on Community-Based Health Financing in Uganda

CBU student Daryl Stephens (Psych ’14), poses with Susan, secretary, finance and liaisons officer at the Ishaka Health Plan where she did research on Community-Based Health Financing in Uganda

Malinda Fitzgerald and Julia Hanebrink are the amazing co-directors of this one-of-a-kind program, unique in its focus on both biomedical and qualitative research training. MHIRT has provided life-changing experiences for many, many students who otherwise would not have access to international travel or global health research opportunities. I am so grateful to have been able to return to Uganda with MHIRT participants in 2013 and 2014. I am thrilled that future students will continue to benefit from the momentum of the MHIRT program.” – Susannah Acuff, MHIRT Alum and 2014 Uganda Site Director

But the success of the program cannot solely be summed up in the grant renewal, but in its immediate impact on students.  Hope Npimnee , who participated research in Brazil this summer, had this reflection to share:  “I realize now, that when I applied to this program I was making a bold statement: I want to give myself the opportunity of a lifetime to grow both scientifically and personally. Reflecting on my experience in Brazil, nothing could be truer about that statement. I feel immensely more prepared for the medical school application process. But in addition to this, I feel more prepared to do what is needed of every global citizen by simply being more aware and open to cross-cultural interactions.

The most wonderful things happen as a result of these summer research experiences. Students go on to graduate programs in dentistry, medicine, anthropology, epidemiology, public health, and biological sciences. Some dedicate their lives to helping others by setting up non-profit organizations, or working with the foreign sites. All continue to be globally involved. You can read about the 2014 students’ wonderful, life-changing experiences at the new MHIRT Blog. Deadline for applications for summer 2015 is December 19 (early bird) and January 2 (final deadline). For more information, visit the MHIRT website.

New Biology Internships

By Malinda E. C. Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Professor of Biology

Chawan Rasheed presenting her experiences to Beta Beta  Beta

Chawan Rasheed presenting her experiences to Beta Beta Beta

Beginning in 2014 the biology department began to offer a course called Special Topics in Biology: Professional Internship.  This internship is arranged through the Career Center Director, Ms. Amy Ware.  Students have taken this class for 1-3 credits and it is a pass/fail class.  Depending on the number of credits a student signs up for, the hours a student spends at the establishment and the requirements vary.  A student can spend from 4-12 hours/week at their internship.  By definition an internship only benefits the student and not the establishment.  There are many internships, mostly dealing with heath care, such as:  Campbell Clinic, LeBonheur, Ortho Memphis, Regional One, Jones Clinic, and Southern College of Optometry.  Internships can also be arranged in basic science laboratories such as Vascular Biology; however, those are more often independent research projects.

Elton Banks was nominated by his mentors at Jones Clinic and received the Intern of the Year award last spring. Chawan Rasheed completed her internship this semester by presenting her experiences at Southern College of Optometry to Beta Beta Beta in a club meeting this past September (see the image above).  Currently Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald is the faculty member in charge of the interns, once Ms. Ware has approved the student.  If you are interested please contact the career center and see what internships interest you (aware1@cbu.edu).  A student may do one 3 credit or multiple ones not to exceed 3 credit hours.

Math Center Tutors 9/14

We continue our practice of introducing one of our Math Center Tutors.

Rene Hudlet, Math Center Tutor

Rene Hudlet,
Math Center Tutor

Rene Hudlet is a sophomore Chemical Engineer with a Biochemical concentration and a Chemistry minor.  He is a graduated of Evangelical Christian School and now is a very enthusiastic first time tutor in the Math Center.  He enjoys tutoring Calculus I and II the most.  In his spare time, Rene enjoys building “stuff.”

Alpha Chi National Meeting in St. Louis

By Elton Banks, Stephanie Allen Winters, and Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald

Dr. Fitzgerrald, Elton Banks, and Stephanie Allen-Winters

Dr. Fitzgerald, Elton Banks, and Stephanie Allen-Winters

This past March,  Stephanie Allen-Winters and I (Elton Banks)  had the opportunity to travel to St. Louis so that we could be a part of the Alpha Chi national conference.  Alpha Chi is an interdisciplinary honor society and I serve as the president, Stephanie is the VP of our local chapter, and Daryl Stephens is the secretary/treasurer.  The opening speaker was Dr. Dennis Richardson who is a helminthologist.  He cofounded a non-profit called Bawa Health Initiative in Camaroon, Africa.  Their main goal is a clean and safe water supply.  The Alpha Chi students raised $5,000 to build latrines in Bawa, Camaroon.    Students also participated in a “walk for water”, the theme of this year’s convention.  There were a lot of similarities between the Bawa health initiative and the projects that MHIRT students have conducted in Uganda on access to health care and prevention of malaria.  The other plenary speaker was four star General Tommy Franks, an Alpha Chi Alumnus.  He spoke about his career in the military and how Alpha Chi prepares you to be a leader in the future.  He also had copies of his recent autobiography available.

Stephanie Allen-Winters presented the results from her senior research with Dr. Anand Kanwaljeet in the Health Sciences division of the Alpha Chi presentations.  Stephanie won first place for her presentation entitled How demographic factors influence the cortisol levels of infants and young children” and will receive a cash prize.  She also competed and won one of two regional scholarships (Region III SE USA) of $500.00 to be used towards her graduate education.   From attending various presentations and participating in the poster session and talks, we had a really good time. We also attended various workshops, one of which gave us a fresh perspective on some fundraising ideas that could benefit both Christian Brothers University and the surrounding Memphis community. For instance, we came up with the idea to help shelters in the Memphis area dodge the cold during the winter by gathering used coats in exchange for participation in a tournament-style game of dodgeball. During the evenings and between events, we had a chance check out a few of the monuments, restaurants, and other interesting attractions within St. Louis. Overall, we had a wonderful experience. We would certainly recommend that any student joining this organization attend the Alpha Chi National Honor Society conference next year.

BIOL 396 Medical Shadowing

by Dr. Stan Eisen, Professor of Biology

Dr. Adams with BIOL 396 group.

Dr. James “Bo” Adams showing details of an X-ray to this year’s class. (Front L-R: Dr. James “Bo” Adams, Danielle Frazier, Anqi Zheng, Vu Cao. Back: Jimmy Nguyen

I suppose one might say that the moral of this story is “Be careful with what you ask for, because you just might get it.”  Six years ago, Dr. James “Bo” Adams, CBC alumnus, mentioned to me, “If there’s anything I can do to help current CBU students, please let me know.”  This offer ultimately led to some brain-storming with Andrea Bergen-Rourke, Education Coordinator at Delta Medical Center, resulting in the creation of a course entitled “Medical Shadowing”.  The class meets once per week for a 3-hour block of time, during which upperclassmen rotate through the departments at Delta Medical Center, and observe the activities of the healthcare providers who work there.

These departments include: 

BIOL 396 student

Michael Covington showing Vu Cao how a freshly-collected blood sample is processed

Department/Activity

Introduction to the hospital, Hospital procedures, HIPAA directives
Pulmonology
Dietary
Emergency Medicine
Orthopedics
Physical Therapy
Respiratory Therapy
Behavioral Intake
Nursing Education
Administration
Imaging (X-ray)

In order to participate in this class, students must be in their junior or senior year, and are required to provide a urine drug screen, criminal background check, TB Skin test, and a current immunization record.

Math Center Tutors 2/14

We continue our practice of showcasing our Math Center Tutors in this issue.

Tiffany Rice, Math Center Tutor

Tiffany Rice, Math Center Tutor

Tiffany Rice, a sophomore Chemistry (Pre-Pharmacy) major came to CBU from Craigmont High School where she was an outstanding student.  Besides her studies and work in the Math Center she is a member of the Honors program, Tri-Beta (Biology Club), and ACS the American Chemical Society.  She says that she likes to tutor because “I feel like everyone is here for an education, but if a person doesn’t  understand a certain topic, his or her education would be stinted and they would lose the ability to grow as they should.”  She also encourages more people to use the center because “Math makes the world go round, in any language at any time.”

Eddie Gallarno, Math Center Tutor

Eddie Gallarno, Math Center Tutor

Senior Eddie Gallarno was home schooled and graduated from Faith Heritage School.  Eddie’s great smile and personality along with his mathematical expertise has made him an excellent tutor this year in the Math Center.  He is a double major in Mathematics and History and is an officer in both the MAA (Mathematics Association of America, student section) and Φ Α θ  (Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society).  When not involved in school activities he plays the banjo and enjoys Bluegrass music, tabletop games and World War II history.

This year’s visit to the Gulf Coast Research Lab (Fall 2013)

by Dr. Stan Eisen, Professor of Biology

The GCRL crew

The GCRL crew: (L-R): Dr. Stan Eisen, Natalie Wright, Elizabeth Nguyen, Eisha Thakor, Kevin Pharm, Chawan Rasheed, Elton Banks, Samantha Canizaro, Damien Stevenson, Garrett Burton, Eric Joe

During the Fall semester, the Biology Department plans a weekend trip to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, located in Ocean Springs, MS, to give students a “taste” of marine biology.  This year, Dr. Stan Eisen took a group of students during the weekend of Friday, November 1, through Sunday, November 3, to go trawling the Bay of Biloxi on Saturday morning, to tour the lower Pascagoula River on Saturday afternoon, and to conduct laboratory studies on the digeanean (fluke) parasites of snails and fish from the area.

Students examining the days catch.

Students examining the days catch.

According to its website,  the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) is a marine/ coastal research and education enterprise sited in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and is a unit of The University of Southern Mississippi‘s College of Science and Technology.  GCRL has a workforce of 200 faculty, researchers, graduate students and support staff. Research at GCRL is multidisciplinary and applications-oriented with a focus on sustainable coastal and marine resources, development of new marine technologies, and the education of future scientists and citizens.  Education opportunities span graduate degree programs in coastal sciences, undergraduate field courses in marine biology and hands-on discovery programs for precollege students and teachers.  http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/about_us/index.php

Jessica Schneider photographing specimens in the laboratory

Jessica Schneider photographing specimens in the laboratory

Research and education activities at GCRL are conducted through one academic department, the Department of Coastal Sciences, and three centers.

  • Center for Fisheries Research and Development
  • Marine Education Center
  • Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center
The Titanic Pose (Chawan Rasheed)

The Titanic Pose (Chawan Rasheed)

As part of its mission for marine education, the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory maintains a consortium of colleges and universities, which provide a venue for students to take classes at the Laboratory.  Christian Brothers University is a member of that consortium.

Featured Story: Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Grant 10/13

by Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald and Julia Hanebrink, MHIRT Program Directors

Group photo of MHIRT students and faculty for at the 2013 MHIRT Symposium.

Group photo of MHIRT students and faculty for at the 2013 MHIRT Symposium.

CBU prides itself on effective and enjoyable teaching. An integral part of such teaching is having the students perform research internships. There are different ways for students to perform their research: with a CBU professor, with a researcher at another local institution such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), or with a researcher participating in grant funded research anywhere in the U.S.

CBU student Elton Banks (Biomedical Science, ’14) learns how to how to mount tissues on a slide in Dr. Luiz Britto’s lab in the  Department of Physiology & Biophysics at the Universidade de São Paulo.

CBU student Elton Banks, Biomedical Science 2014, learns how to how to mount tissues on a slide in Dr. Luiz Britto’s lab in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics at the Universidade de São Paulo.

In addition to the above opportunities, CBU is pleased to provide an excellent opportunity to do this research via internships, while assisting underserved individuals, at sites in Brazil and Uganda, with all expenses paid and a stipend through a Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is a major collaborative project involving CBU, and other regional academic institutions that started in 2000. Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald, CBU Professor of Biology, and Mrs. Julia Hanebrink, an alum and Adjunct Lecturer of Anthropology at CBU, co-direct the MHIRT Program. There is also an advisory board that consists of faculty from the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis and LeMoyne Owen College. These faculty assist in the recruitment of students locally at their institutions. Students and faculty travel to these countries to conduct research on biomedical and behavioral health disparities in collaboration with leading scientists and researchers from foreign universities and community organizations. Approximately 15 students participate in this MHIRT program each year in the summer after having participated in preparation workshops the prior spring.

This year, two new research sites were offered to students. Dr. Cilene Lino de Oliviera mentored Erica Johnson (Jackson State, Healthcare Administration) on a project titled A Translational Rodent Assay of Affective Biases in Depression and Antidepressant Therapy: A Protocol Replication in the Behavioral Neurobiology lab at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. Margaret Ajok, Executive Director of the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation in northern Uganda, collaborated with graduate students Amanda Reinke (UT Knoxville, Anthropology) and Justin Hendrix (U of M, Public Health) on a project assessing sexual- and gender-based violence.

The most wonderful things happen as a result of these summer research experiences. Students go on to graduate programs in dentistry, medicine, anthropology, epidemiology, public health, and biological sciences. Some dedicate their lives to helping others by setting up non-profit organizations, or working with the foreign sites. All continue to be globally involved. You can read about the students’ wonderful, life-changing experiences at the new MHIRT Blog. Deadline for applications this year is December 31, 2013. For more information, visit the MHIRT website.

Featured Story: Student Success 2013

At CBU, we strive to give each and every student the best opportunity for success. Sometimes that means helping students get into professional or graduate school to further pursue their ambitions. Sometimes that means helping students determine a “Plan B” if their initial plan was not really suited to their talents and/or initial expectations. Other times, it means helping a student determine what are the possibilities out there that match up with their interests and talents.

Dominique Garcia-Robles, Chemistry 2011, and Stephanie Johnson, Biology 2009, at their white coat ceremony at the Southern College of Optometry.

Dominique Garcia-Robles, Chemistry 2011, and Stephanie Johnson, Biology 2009, at their white coat ceremony at the Southern College of Optometry.

In the last five years (classes of 2009 to 2013):

  • We had 27 of our graduates accepted into medical school (82%* acceptance rate)
  • We had 21 of our graduates accepted into pharmacy school (96% acceptance rate)
  • We had 12 of our graduates accepted into physical therapy school (92% acceptance rate)
  • We had 13 of our graduates accepted into nursing school (93% acceptance rate)
  • We had an additional 22 students accepted into various other health professional schools such as dentistry, veterinary, optometry, occupational therapy and chiropractic.
  • We also had 27 of our graduates accepted into graduate (M.S. or Ph.D.) programs in the sciences (100% acceptance rate).

* In reviewing these percentages, please note that we do not pre-screen our applicants to the various professional or graduate schools as some institutions do. Some of our students were initially rejected but were accepted in a following year. If a student was accepted in one area and rejected in another, we only count the acceptance and not the rejection since we concentrate on student success.

For comparison purposes with medical school acceptances at UT, East Tennessee, U of Arkansas and nationwide (data for 2012, source is data from aamc):

  • UT-Memphis accepted 165 out of 1,629 applications (10% acceptance rate).
  • East Tennessee Quillen accepted 72 out of 1,929 applications (4% acceptance rate)
  • University of Arkansas accepted 166 out of 2,148 applications (8% acceptance rate).
  • nationwide, 19,517 are accepted out of 636,309 applicants with each person giving 14 applications on average for an overall acceptance rate per person of 43%.

For pharmacy schools, the average acceptance rate for 2012 was about 16% for each school (6.4 applications per acceptance), but since students often apply to more than one school, we obtained information a couple years ago that 50.2% of all PharmCAS applicants received at least one acceptance.

CBU’s Steps for Success

To get into competitive professional (e.g., medical, pharmacy, dental) schools, there are five things that are important:

1. Grades At CBU, most of our science courses have labs associated with them, and the instructor for the lecture is usually the instructor for the lab. Our professors have at least 10 office hours each week to help students both with their coursework and with advising for their career plans.

2. Entrance tests (e.g., MCAT, PCAT, DAT) The excellent courses supported by well equipped labs prepare our students for these tests. In addition, the CBU Career Center offers practice tests to try to help prepare our students.

3. Experience in the field At CBU, we provide our students with many opportunities to gain experience in their chosen field. Our student groups, particularly the Biology group, Beta Beta Beta, and the Chemistry group, Student Members of the American Chemical Society, provide opportunities to see and interact with institutions and people in the local health community. In the freshmen Principles of Biology courses, we have a discussion section that spends some time talking about what it takes to get into various fields. In the junior year we have a Junior Seminar course that brings researchers onto campus to talk about their research. All of our majors have a senior capstone research or internship course. This experience is viewed very positively by the various health professional schools.

4. Recommendations from your professors and the supervisors of your work in the field At CBU, you are encouraged to really get to know your professors. If you take advantage of this, the professors will be able to write very specific letters of recommendation for you.

5. Interviews As part of the admissions process for professional schools, students are required to attend an interview. At CBU, we help students prepare for this opportunity by holding mock interviews staffed by our alumni and other health professionals.

To help and guide you in your preparation for pursuing any of the health careers, we have a Pre-Professional Heath Director, Dr. Stan Eisen. He has a very extensive set of web pages on the various health careers and what it takes to get into these professional schools.

Math Center Tutors 9/13

The Math Center is a very popular place where students can get free one-on-one tutoring in math. It is also a place to do your math homework by yourself or in a study group with others in the center. Here are profiles of two of the tutors.

Elizah Brown, Math Tutor

Elijah Brown, Math Tutor

Elijah Brown is a freshman who offered his talents as a tutor in the CBU Math Center.  He graduated from First Assembly Christian School and received AP credit in Calculus I.  He is currently enrolled in Calculus II and is pursuing a major in Electrical Engineering.  When asked why he wanted to become a math tutor he said “I like to help others and I like explaining and doing math problems.”

Htet Cho Oo, Math Tutor

Htet Cho Oo, Math Tutor

Htet Cho Oo is a junior from Myanmar, Southeast Asia. He is an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, with a Mathematics minor. He tutors every Math course up to Probability, everything in Computer Science, everything in Physics and Chemistry 115. He has a very pleasing personality and will try to tutor anyone until they understand a topic.   Even if he is in the center and not on duty he cheerfully helps students when time will permit. Htet Cho is also active in the school of Engineering and tutors some Electrical Engineering courses.  He likes technology related topics.  He says that if you are interested in technology, he’d be interested in getting to know you!