USF College of Public Health students Caitlin Wolfe and Shahrzad Zamani represented University of South Florida at the Annual Delta Omega Student Poster Session in Atlanta.
The prestigious Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health holds the poster session to encourage and recognize the public health leaders of tomorrow. Zamani’s study is the first and only undergraduate student research to ever be presented at the poster session.
Each year, nineteen students are selected from thousands of abstracts nationwide to present their research. This year’s presentations were held during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) on Nov. 6.
Undergraduate student Zamani presented her research on health and behavior factors that will decrease the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the U.S.
Her research titled “Role of Baby Boxes in Lowering Infant Mortality Rate” compares the IMR between several developed countries and defines the role of baby boxes as a function in lowering IMR in the U.S. Her main focus was evaluating the application and accessibility of baby boxes in the U.S.
The U.S. has one of the highest IMR among all developed countries. In contrast, Finland has the lowest IMR among all countries. Zamani said she was curious about the factors leading to such low IMR statistics. She found one reason for Finland’s success in infant care is providing free baby boxes to new parent(s) that are filled with infant care necessities and double as infant beds. Baby boxes are proven to lower the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by providing resources and information about vital infant care and practicing safe sleep.
“The presentation was great,” she said. “During my poster presentation, I was visited by the Delta Omega representative where we talked about the future implications of my research.”
Zamani said she was a bit intimidated to be the first and only undergraduate presenter, but that it was an honor to represent her college.
“This year, the Tau Chapter at USF COPH was chosen as the chapter of the year and it was very exciting to be a representative of this chapter,” she said. “I am also glad that I could represent the college for all that they have done for me and show my Bull pride!”
She said it was inspiring to see so many people in a variety of public health fields joining each other to share ideas and learn new concepts at APHA and the Delta Omega reception.
“The Delta Omega reception was a friendly environment where we received recognition. During the dinner, we were able to connect with public health students from across the country and exchange ideas,” Zamani said. “Through my workforce and leadership development course, I had set up a LinkedIn profile which was very useful for networking. I was able to instantly connect with people and expand my contacts.”
Wolfe, who is earning a PhD focused on global health, presented her work as an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team in Liberia.
“In terms of my APHA abstract, contact tracing is one of the key, on-the-ground actions necessary for halting Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) transmission, and it needs to be implemented as soon as possible after an Ebola case is identified,” she said. “Throughout the epidemic, we routinely found that there were delays in initiating contact tracing ranging from a few days to over a week, often due to limited resources in Liberia.”
To investigate this further, Wolfe and her team created and conducted contact tracing resource surveys that were sent out to field teams to identify the major barriers to rapid and effective implementation of contact tracing methods.
Shortly after they conducted these surveys, another small cluster of Ebola flared up in Monrovia, Liberia. Some of the lessons learned from previous clusters were employed to address the challenges that were identified from the surveys. Using the enhanced methods, more than 150 contacts were identified within 48 hours, and those initially missing were located within days. Contacts were closely monitored and promptly tested if symptomatic. No contacts developed EVD nor were lost to follow-up. Based on the survey responses and the results of the enhanced monitoring methods, they were able to provide key recommendations for establishing effective contact tracing in the future.
Wolfe said the presentation went well and that she was able to network with fellow peers who are researching similar topics.
“I met some fellow Ebola fighters and we were able to share our stories while discussing the findings from this research and what it means moving forward,” she said. “Additionally, I met someone from the National Association of County and City Health Officials who was very interested in the preparedness aspects of the key recommendations that resulted from our findings.”
If her abstracts are accepted, Wolfe said that she looks forward to presenting at APHA again with her new research and doctoral dissertation focused more on schistosomiasis, a disease caused by infection with freshwater parasitic worms in certain tropical/subtropical countries.
“I’m also interested in presenting at an oral session one day, if the opportunity arises. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the nomination to submit my abstract and represent USF at the Delta Omega session and was thrilled when it was accepted,” Wolfe said. “It was an honor to represent the COPH and the Tau chapter, as well as witness the Tau chapter receive its own honors at the Delta Omega award ceremony.”
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Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health