From undergrad to doctoral level, COPH Delta Omega student presenters score big at APHA

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Three USF College of Public Health (COPH) students presented research abstracts at the Delta-Omega-sponsored Student Poster Session at the annual American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Meeting and Expo held in Atlanta in November.

Delta Omega is a national honorary society for public health students with more than 20,000 members. Each year, 29 students are selected to present their research during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the APHA’s annual meeting. While students do not need to be members of Delta Omega to compete, they must attend schools and programs with active chapters and be approved by the respective chapter to compete.

Doctoral student Rafaella Stein Elger presented research titled “Examining the sources, utilization and needs of support among caregivers of children with special health care needs in Florida.”

COPH students Isabella Abbondanza and Rafaella Stein Elger stand with their Delta Omega awards presented during the APHA Meeting & Expo. (Photo courtesy of Abbondanza)

“This study showed that the main barriers to accessing services and resources are geography, families’ eligibility and the type of insurance families have,” Stein Elger said. “Our study also showed that caregivers need more support, and many times they’re navigating health care and education systems that are not collaborating. I think this study gives us an overview of what it means to be a caregiver for a child with special health care needs in Florida.”

Isabella Abbondanza, a senior BSPH student, presented her research titled “Experiences of Spanish-speaking participants in the Positive Parenting & Partnership (P3) Program.”

“Understanding if there are cultural differences between parenting styles can lead to more culturally appropriate material offered to parents who want to learn better parenting techniques,” Abbondanza explained. “Parents can have a huge impact on a child’s health outcomes in adulthood, and if we are able to understand cultural differences within parenting, we can better prepare parents of all backgrounds.”

Paula Hernandez, the third COPH Delta Omega presenter, shared her research on parental attitudes toward HPV vaccinations for adolescents.

Paula Hernandez stands in front of her research poster at APHA. (Photo courtesy of Hernandez)

“There are still many negative stigmas and misconceptions around sexual health that can impact health care decision-making and one’s health in general,” Hernandez, an MPH student, said. “Additionally, reproductive health is an integral part of women’s health and well-being, which makes it important to work toward creating equitable and effective care for all individuals.”

In addition to receiving a $500 monetary award, all the students said one of the most rewarding things about presenting was engaging with session participants.

“I was able to work on my public speaking skills while also being given a great platform to advocate for the HPV vaccine,” Hernandez said.

“My favorite part of presenting was engaging in meaningful conversations with people who also found this research important,” Abbondanza added. “Some people were interested because the research was related to their career field, and some people were interested because they come from different cultural backgrounds and felt like they could relate to the topic. I loved that I was able to practice my networking skills because good networking skills are valuable in any career field.” 

Story by Donna Campisano for USF College of Public Health