What’s the Value of Training at the PRCHN?

A graduate assistantship offers young researchers and scholars the opportunity to expand and sharpen their skills alongside faculty and staff. The experience gained through an assistantship can often lead to employment and research grants, as it has for former graduate research assistant En-Jung Shon, PhD, and current graduate assistants Megan Schmidt-Sane and Tommy To. 

En-Jung Shon, PhD, has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Science and Social Work at Miami University of Ohio. She will be teaching Research Methods. Dr. Shon’s research specializes in preventing health disparities among ethnic minority populations with a focus on ethnic variability. While at the PRCHN, she worked on the FreshLink study and FM Tracks, which helped to support her main teaching areas of research methods and human behavior in social environments.

Megan Schmidt-Sane, a graduate assistant on the Building Capacity for Obesity Prevention (BCOP) project, has received a National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology Program Doctoral Dissertation Research improvement Grant. These highly competitive grants are designed to support basic scientific research on the causes, consequences, and complexities of human social and cultural variability. She will be conducting her research in Kampala, Uganda.

Schmidt-Sane’s dissertation is “A mixed-methods study of vulnerability and social resilience” and uses quantitative and qualitative methods to address the lower rates of HIV testing and treatment for men (compared to women) across the HIV clinical cascade (from testing to viral suppression) in Uganda. This research specifically looks at men’s HIV vulnerability in low-income, urban communities in Kampala, Uganda. It examines men’s social organization as resilient to economic pressures but as a paradoxical facilitator of HIV vulnerability through social norms that do not promote HIV testing or treatment. She states “My work at the PRC with BCOP has been incredibly helpful in learning how to translate knowledge and best practices into programmatic action. It has also been wonderful working on a project that, similar to my dissertation, addresses policy, system, and environmental determinants of health, rather than individual behavioral determinants.”  

foodNEST graduate assistant Tommy To has been accepted into the Northeast Ohio Medical University’s (NEOMED) Urban Health Partnership Program, which is a two year training program that includes acceptance and matriculation into NEOMED. Before he enters medical school, Mr. To will take urban health focused courses and amke trips to the local health clinics and hospital facilities around the Cleveland area to get a better grasp on how primary care is practiced in urban neighborhoods. In his future career as a physician, he hopes to specialize in Family Medicine and work in the Cleveland area as a primary care physician. 

During foodNEST recruitment phase, Mr. To contacted and met with local community and business leaders to set up recruitment sites. For the retention phase, he has been calling and scheduling participants for their surveys while reaching out to hard-to-find participants to ensure that they are retained in the study. He notes “Working at the PRCHN has given me a firsthand look into the struggles that underserved areas of Cleveland face on a daily basis. While working on the foodNEST study, I learned about food deserts and how the lack of healthy, nutritious food can negatively impact the health of entire communities and contributes to the cycle of poverty that is experienced over and over. When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to work as a physician, but I did not want to become one for the wrong reasons. My experience at the PRCHN has helped me find the motivation to go into the medical field as a physician who helps heal, teaches, and gives back to the underserved communities in the city of Cleveland, where I was born and grew up.”

Congratulations to Dr. Shon, Ms. Schmidt-Sane, and Mr. To. The PRCHN Is proud of you and your accomplishments.