*Graduating Students Available for Interviews*
NEW YORK – On Commencement Day, new graduates are famous for their idealism. But this week’s graduates from Columbia University Medical Center have already done a lot to help address urgent healthcare issues globally and in the United States. Whether working to improve reproductive care for adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa, educating Tanzanian families on prevention of malaria, researching mysteries of the brain, addressing the need for primary care practitioners and educators, this latest crop of health science graduates is proving that education has prepared them to hit the ground running.
Commencement ceremonies will be held on May 16 for Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (146 graduates), Mailman School of Public Health (220 graduates), School of Nursing (193 graduates) and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (46 graduates). The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (74 graduates) commencement will be held on May 17.
“We are proud of all our 2007 graduates, whose skills and accomplishments collectively represent the current and future excellence of Columbia University Medical Center,” said Lee Goldman, M.D., executive vice president of Columbia University and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “We congratulate them for their years of hard work and dedication, and we look forward with great pride to the many contributions they will make to health and biomedical science in the years to come.”
On her way…. to the Population Council
Karen Austrian is well on her way to establishing comprehensive public health programming for adolescent girls throughout sub-Saharan Africa. After this week’s graduation from the Mailman School of Public Health, she will join the Population Council, an international non-profit organization, where she will coordinate programs to help empower adolescent girls in Africa and other areas throughout the world.
Her interest began during a Columbia College undergraduate study abroad program in Kenya, where she observed that reproductive health programs were primarily targeted to married women or adolescent boys. The unique needs of adolescent girls were not being addressed.
After graduation, Austrian moved back to Kenya for 15 months and helped establish a reproductive health center for adolescent girls in Nairobi. The center educated girls on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, as well as on the basics of financial literacy – how to budget and save money – while working to develop self-confidence and leadership skills.
“Working with the girls in Kenya was motivating because they were very vocal about their needs and they took the initiative to learn how to run their own groups within their communities,” says Austrian. “Now there are 10 smaller groups being run by alumni throughout Nairobi.”
“I decided to pursue a public health degree to learn research design and data analysis, as well as program design and evaluation, skills that I feel will be essential as I continue my goal of helping girls in sub-Saharan Africa take charge of their healthcare, careers, financial needs and all other aspects of their lives,” adds Austrian.
Educating Families At Home and Abroad about Preventive Health
Medical student Judy Chertok has long been drawn to programs that help families take simple steps to improve their health and safety. As a Brown University undergraduate, she co-founded a program that helped connect pregnant teenagers with social services, worked as a volunteer linking families to social services, and taught health and safety to children in an after-school center.
When Chertok was a student at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), an opportunity presented with Millennium Villages, a project developed by the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the UN Millennium Project that empowers impoverished villages in Africa – she jumped on it.
Chertok worked in Tanzania for six weeks, traveling to sites and helping educate a population of 30,000 on the use of mosquito nets to prevent malaria. She also designed and led two projects: assessing healthcare facilities and suggesting changes; and providing training and new health materials to supplement the local elementary science curriculum.
Back at Columbia’s medical school, Chertok partnered with a faculty member on research evaluating knowledge differences about the value of folic acid among women of varied socioeconomic strata. This research was presented at the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, among other meetings.
Following graduation this week, Chertok will continue her focus on family health education, coupled with staff training, by pursuing a family medicine residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
Reading Detective Novels… And Researching the Brain
Columbia medical student Anjail Sharrief relates her love of mystery novels to her long-standing interest in neurology and brain science.
“Neurology attracts a certain type of person —someone who likes to solve mysteries and get a lot of facts before making a decision,” says Sharrief. “I became fascinated with the brain during high school because while most of the other organ systems have largely been figured out, the brain remains a big mystery.”
“I am also inspired by how devastating many neurological diseases can be and the possibility for research to improve lives for patients and their families,” she says.
As a Smith College undergraduate, Sharrief conducted research on circadian rhythms, ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome. After graduation, she spent two years in neuroimaging research at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Now, as a medical school graduate from the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia, she plans to become an academic neurologist, working as both a clinician and researcher, studying the neurologic effects of such rheumatologic disorders as lupus.
She is also working to uncover new ways to help her African-American, Muslim community understand the connection between lifestyle and increased risk of stroke. For her efforts thus far, she has received a Youth of the Year Award from the Muslim Society of America.
Credentialing a Nurse to Lead Primary Care
To address our country’s shortage of primary care practitioners, the Columbia University School of Nursing recently established the doctor of nursing (DrNP) degree – the first nursing school in the United States to do so. This gives nurses rigorous training in disease diagnostics and treatment, and qualifies them to provide primary and specialty care to patients in outpatient settings and hospitals. The program has set a new bar for nursing schools nationwide. Approximately 200 nursing schools nationwide are developing DrNP programs. Columbia graduated its first DrNP class in May 2006.
This year, Heather McCoy earned her DrNP degree while working full-time in Scottsdale, Ariz. as a neurological nurse practitioner at a Level 1 Trauma Center.
“I was seeking more responsibility for managing the comprehensive care of my neurologically impaired patients, who are often severely compromised by their injuries,” says McCoy. “The DrNP offered a way to attain the additional autonomy over my patients that I was seeking.”
With her new DrNP degree, McCoy will take on added responsibility managing neurosurgical patients from the initial consult until discharge. Her advanced training included a residency under a board-certified neurosurgeon. She is now authorized to diagnose and triage patients, prescribe and manage medications, order tests, provide primary and post-operative care, and supervise comprehensive care management.
Educating Communities About Oral Health and Disease
With oral health problems more complex and on the rise as people are living longer, dental educators are needed to provide ongoing oral hygiene care and counsel to people throughout their lives. For example, a recent study from Columbia University Medical Center researchers demonstrated that gum disease is directly linked to heart and other vascular problems such as atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries caused by a build-up of plaque. Oral health now requires chronic attention, linked to other diseases.
To address this urgent need, several prominent dental professional organizations have joined in creating the Academic Dental Careers Fellowship, a program focused on creating dental educators. While studying at Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine (CDM), Carmel Dudley was among ten students nationwide selected for this fellowship.
Besides her dental studies, Dudley took education classes at Columbia’s Teachers College and will use this training in a future career as a professor of dental medicine. Ultimately, she will train dental students to be educators in their communities, spotlighting the role of dental hygiene in a long, healthy life.
For now, she is entering a general dentistry residency at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. www.cumc.columbia.edu