COPH students are two of 19 students chosen to share posters at APHA

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College of Public Health doctoral students Rema Ramakrishnan and Dr. Amruta Mhashilkar were chosen to share their posters during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association Oct. 31 – Nov. 4 in Chicago, Ill.

Only 19 students from schools and programs of public health across the country were selected to present their research during this special poster session.

Delta Omega is an honor society for graduate students in public health. It was founded at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1924. The COPH is one of the group’s 68 chapters.

“This presentation enabled me to convey my research on a large scale, test my skills as a presenter, and also helped expose me to experts, particularly in the field of maternal and child health,” said Ramakrishnan, who will be obtaining her PhD in epidemiology in 2017.

Her poster, “Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and Breastfeeding Duration: An Analysis of the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System,” analyzed the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and its association with continued breastfeeding among infants.

Rema Ramakrishnan

Rema Ramakrishnan, MPH. (Photo by Natalie Preston).

“I have identified three themes from the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative steps and have found that for this initiative to succeed one needs more support at the organizational level rather than at the level of individual staff members,” Ramakrishnan said.

Mhashilkar’s poster, “Ecdysone receptor: A novel target for development of drugs against filariasis,” discussed the ways to address filariasis, which is a disease caused by the Brugia malayi parasite and affects more than 120 million people globally by causing elephantiasis and death.

The international community set a goal to eliminate elephantiasis by 2020 causing a dramatic increase in the number of drugs being utilized to eliminate it, resulting in the parasite developing drug resistance, according to Mhashilkar, who will be graduating this fall with a PhD in global communicable diseases.

Amruta Mhashilkar

Amruta Mhashilkar, MD, CPH, MPH. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

“New drugs against these infections are critically needed,” Mhashilkar said. “I have been working on developing and optimizing a drug discovery model for screening compounds for the ecdysone receptor. As the ecdysone receptor is absent in human beings, drugs active against the receptor would have no detrimental effect in humans.”

Both Ramakrishnan and Mhashilkar received a $350 cash prize in addition to presenting their work at APHA.

“An opportunity such as this to present my work at a national platform is very rare for a student. It is an absolute pleasure for being chosen to present at the Delta Omega poster session,” Mhashilkar said.

For Ramakrishnan this was a special experience because not only did she get selected for the poster session, but it was also her first time at APHA.

“I was excited since this was the first time I was going to APHA and also my first time presenting at a national conference,” she said.

Outside of the classroom and being members of the Delta Omega honor society, both students have been highly involved in the COPH and other public health initiatives.

Ramakrishnan is currently serving as research and education chair for the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization, has volunteered for the annual COPH flu shot drive, and is a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Mhashilkar previously served as president of the Infectious Disease Association and participated in health education initiatives organized by the USF Health Service Corps including hand washing and anti-smoking campaigns, as well the annual COPH flu shot drive. She also was active in the Preconception Peer Educator program.

Delta Omega 2015 Student Presenters

(From left) Dr. Amruta Mhashilkar and Rema Ramakrishnan were given awards from Delta Omega, the honorary society for graduate students in public health, in addition to presenting their posters. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mhashilkar)

“It was a nice experience since the Delta Omega people treated us well and we got to know how the organization works,” Ramakrishnan said.

Rema Ramakrishnan Delta Omega APHA Poster

Rema Ramakrishnan shares her poster during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. (Photo courtesy of Ramakrishnan)

“The poster session was an incredible experience. I got a few visitors who were extremely interested in my research topic and asked me really good questions. The questions were more public health oriented and application of my research towards the field,” Mhashilkar said.

Amruta Delta Omega

Dr. Amruta Mhashilkar shares her poster during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mhashilkar)

“It was indeed helpful to know their views and I am grateful that I could get an unbiased opinion about my research. The positive feedback from others have made me proud of what I do,” Mhashilkar said. “I am glad I was given the opportunity, firstly, to conduct the research and, secondly, to present it at such a huge platform.”

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Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health.