Two students will present at Delta Omega Poster Session

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USF College of Public Health students, Caitlin Wolfe and Shahrzad Zamani, have been selected to represent University of South Florida at the Annual Delta Omega Student Poster Session.

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. Presentations are held during the Delta Omega Student Poster Session at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) conference during the Delta Omega Social Hour/Reception on November 6.

Student Shari Zamani (Photo courtesy of Zamani).

Student Shahrzad Zamani (Photo courtesy of Zamani).

Undergraduate student Zamani said that she always been interested in learning about what makes people sick and ways that we can keep populations healthy, which is what drew her to the COPH.

“My favorite topic is epidemiology, and more specifically epidemiology of women’s health in relation to community and family health,” she said. “I am interested in learning about factors that influence women’s health, and I enjoy the process of creative thinking for solving health issues.”

Zamani will present her ongoing research on health and behavior factors that will decrease the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the U.S.

Her research is titled “Role of Baby Boxes in Lowering Infant Mortality Rate” which 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 is 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 to 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.

“Without a doubt, this would not have been possible without the help and guidance of my teachers and mentors. I am honored and proud to be representing the USF System and COPH at this event,” Zamani said.  “An inseparable part of my career is advocacy for women’s health and bringing attention to the importance of maternal and child health practices. Presenting my research with USF in this capacity is the confirmation that I am in the right place for following my dreams.”

Doctoral student Caitlin Wolfe, MPH (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Doctoral student Caitlin Wolfe chose to pursue her PhD at USF COPH because they offered the most competitive fellowship package and have faculty that are working on infectious diseases around the world. The opportunity to contribute to research taking place on the global stage was very important to her when deciding on a school and program.

“I love that public health is so interdisciplinary and interconnected,” she said. “It allows me to combine my interests in epidemiology, microbiology, medical anthropology, conservation biology, ecology, health policy, and human rights all in one!”

Wolfe, who is earning a PhD focused on global health, is presenting her work as an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team in Liberia. She is currently out-of-country finishing summer research in Senegal.

Her abstract focused on contact tracing in response to one of the later 2015 ebola clusters. Contact tracing is a key action necessary for halting ebola virus disease (EVD) transmission. In November 2015, three family members tested positive for EVD in Monrovia, Liberia. This cluster provided an opportunity for Wolfe to implement and evaluate enhanced contact tracing approaches that are discussed in her abstract. This was done in collaboration with her former colleagues at WHO and those from partner agencies such as CDC and Action Contre La Faim who also supported contact tracing efforts in this particular cluster.

Caitlin Wolfe in the field while waist deep in water searching for snails carrying the schistosomiasis parasite (Photo courtesy of Wolfe).

Caitlin Wolfe in the field while waist deep in water searching for snails carrying the schistosomiasis parasite (Photo courtesy of Wolfe).

Wolfe’s idea to create an abstract and present came from the a doctoral seminar led by Dr. Ellen Daley, professor in the Department of Community and Family Health and associate dean of research and practice, and Dr. Erika Thompson, post-doctoral fellow at the COPH, who she said were both incredibly helpful in preparing her for it in terms of poster design and presentation techniques.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Wolfe said. “I’m thrilled to present at an APHA poster session for the first time and excited to represent COPH while I am there!”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health