USF College of Public Health faculty and students partnered with the Polk County Health Department for a research day and poster presentation July 15 in Bartow. Topics included repeat teen pregnancy, repeat Chlamydia infections, late diagnosis of HIV infection, and health providers’ perceptions of childhood obesity among others.
Dr. Russell Kirby and Dr. Abraham Salinas led a COPH team that played key roles in the event, which took root at COPH two years ago.
In the summer of 2012, then-doctoral candidate Salinas and MPH students Allison Vander Molen and Ashley Gallentine received a $10,000 grant from the Florida Public Health Training Center for a training initiative to enhance public health services to medically underserved communities. As a result, the collaborative team developed a computer-based research training curriculum involving online training materials with introductory topics on locally relevant qualitative and quantitative research that could serve as starting points for proposal development of practice-based research projects.
During the subsequent funding cycle, Polk County Health Department leaders approached Kirby and Salinas for a continuation of the partnership with the purpose of developing and implementing collaborative projects between the department and COPH students.
Then, in the summer of 2013, Salinas and other COPH students – including Ryan Ortega, Amelia Phillips, Samantha Copeman, Dena Garcia, T’Shane Williams, Amanda Ellis and Bernice Lopez –were part of a collaborative research group involved in the development of six projects with proposals, IRB applications, and analytic strategy planning. Kirby and Salinas served as facilitators and methodological advisers, while health department staff collaborated directly with MPH students to conduct the projects.
A year was spent conducting research, obtaining data, analysis, poster development, and coordination of logistics for optimal data to present. Students and faculty diligently continued research even after the funding cycle for the project ended.
For various reasons, the actual poster presentation for the collective weathered a pair of postponements from its original October 2013 date. Once it finally took place, participants and attendees agreed it had been worth the wait.
Salinas estimated that 30-40 health department employees and local partners attended the event, which included some posters from Lakeland Regional Medical Center, thanks to its collaborative affiliation with the health department.Kirby’s keynote speech defined academic-community collaboration and spelled out the dos and don’ts in its methodology to an attentive audience.
Four of the eight COPH students involved in last year’s projects participated in the event, including Salinas, Ortega, Phillips and Copeman. The others had graduated, moved to out-of-state positions, or had work conflicts that prevented their participation, Salinas said.
After a year of preparation and coordination, the program was a testament to its organizers’ and participants’ tenacity.
“I have to say that it was great to witness such strong commitment by all the parties,” Salinas said.
Story by David Brothers and Infiniti Mincey, Photos courtesy of Ryan Ortega, College of Public Health.