|Diverse group of students begins competitive fellowship program|
|June 09, 2010|
Until recently, Whitney Chrisco didn't even know that the field of public health existed. She studied biological sciences at North Carolina State University for four years and participated in service learning activities as part of a fellowship program while there. And although she was interested in attending medical school, Chrisco says she was not very excited about it. But then one day she learned about UNC's Summer Public Health Fellowship Program, applied and was accepted.
"As I sit here and listen to the speakers, I know I'm in the right place," Chrisco said during a break on the first full-day session. "This is exactly what I need right now."
Chrisco and 28 other talented undergraduate students and recent graduates, representing 17 colleges and universities across the country and in Puerto Rico, arrived on campus this week to begin UNC's eight-week Summer Public Health Fellowship Program. The program includes seminars about public health disciplines, public health careers, personal leadership and cultural awareness, followed by a four-week "externship" in which the fellows are partnered with public health professionals for an experiential learning opportunity.
Jeremy Powe from Baltimore arrived on campus already armed with public health knowledge. A rising junior studying public health education at North Carolina Central University, he was recruited into the public health curriculum as a first-year student and is interested in cancer prevention. He applied to the fellowship program to broaden his studies, meet other public health educators and learn from their experience.
"This is one of the best public health schools in the nation," Powe said.
Three to four years in the making, the fellowship program is innovative. Focusing entirely on public health, the fellows will receive a broad and experiential overview of public health disciplines and careers.
About 75 students applied for the competitive program. Although all types of students could apply, particularly encouraged were students from ethnic groups that are underrepresented in public health professions, first-generation college students, students from communities with relatively fewer resources, and men.
"I created this program to help level the playing field, primarily for minority and disadvantaged students exploring public health," said Felicia Mebane, PhD, the School's assistant dean for student affairs. "I hope our fellows will leave the program inspired to pursue public health and with the knowledge and confidence that will enable them to achieve their personal goals."
Spelman College student Devalin Jackson and University of Georgia senior Joseph Rimando already see the program as a way to help them define their goals. Jackson has been studying child development, but she is also interested in health behavior and education and environmental and social justice. She said she is excited about participating in the program's externship, applying what she's learned and making connections in the community.
"I'm interested in a master's in public health and wondered if I could see myself here at graduate school," she said.
Pre-med student Rimando said he is interested in public health because it focuses more on the public than the individual.
"A combination of medical school and public health will give me the greatest chance to have an impact on the community's health," he said. Like Jackson, he looks forward to his externship and wants to see what UNC's public health school is like.
"These students are bright and motivated, and the opportunities are out there," Mebane said. "It's exciting to reach out to them, knowing we can make a difference."
Administered by the Office of Student Affairs at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the UNC Summer Public Health Fellowship Program is funded by the UNC Provost's Office and a grant to the UNC Health Careers Opportunities Program.
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|Last updated June 09, 2010|