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Community Based Research – Student Projects

Community Based Research: Student Projects

Below are some examples of students who are doing community based research. These students recently presented their work as part of the URECA Annual Research Day (more on URECA).

Thane Campbell, a junior Anthropology major with a Pre-med concentration, accompanied Wake Forest professor, Dr. Jeanne Simonelli, on a seven week journey to Nicaragua where he worked with La Familia Padre Fabretto, a not-for-profit organization that strives to counter the impact of poverty in Nicaraguan communities. During his time in the country, Thane worked in Fabretto’s health clinic and in doing so gained valuable experience delivering health care in a poor area of an underdeveloped country and with the help of his mentor Dr. Simonelli, Thane learned the basics of performing ethical and practical anthropological fieldwork by analyzing some of the functions of the Fabretto clinic from the basic perspective of both Medical and Applied Anthropology. This opportunity was made possible by the Anthropology department’s project, Health and Helping: Perspectives on Rural Medicine and Anthropological Fieldwork, one of Wake Forest University’s many community-based research initiatives.

“In recent years, Type II diabetes has become one of the fastest growing public health concerns in the United States, in part as a result of increasing obesity rates. As awareness of this problem grows, it is a social and human imperative to determine how diabetes is affecting the poor.” That is why senior Biology major Amy Liang took to the streets of Winston-Salem with Wake Forest professors Dr. Saylor Breckenridge and Dr. Ana Wahl to determine the Linkages between Homelessness, Diet, and Diabetes. The goal of their study was “to investigate the prevalence of Type II diabetes among the homeless in Winston-Salem, NC and to attempt to identify some of the factors that could exacerbate diabetes or increase the risk of its development in homeless individuals.”  This research project is yet another example of Wake Forest’s commitment to apply the University’s motto of Pro Humanitate in the University’s endless pursuit of knowledge.

Kendall Hack, Rachel Handel, and Carrie Stokes spent the summer of 2010 with Wake Forest professor, Dr. Ananda Mitra, in India, researching the issues affecting the local education system in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, India. Leh’s education system faced many obstacles, including lack of the resources necessary to provide for an adequate education. Because of this, products of Leh’s schools often found employment opportunities to be scarce. What these three Wake Forest students witnessed in that Himalayan city affected them so deeply that they chose to return with Dr. Mitra the following summer to conduct more research and further assess the strengths and weakness of the community’s school system. Through their collective research efforts, Dr. Mitra, Kendall, Rachel, and Carrie were able to determine which educational practices that local teachers implemented were successful as well as shed light on areas in which school policy could be improved.

“Our project was intended to gather information that we could not discover from the US and use it to (potentially) draft an in-depth survey to be distributed by and amongst the contacts we made last summer (2011). It is our intent that it will be an on-going research project – the survey would provide us with quantitative data that could be used to make effective recommendations.” With thoughtful inquisition and diligence, Wake Forest professors like Dr. Mitra and students like Kendall, Rachel, and Carrie work together to positively impact communities both at home and abroad.

Laura Grace Carroll:

Laura Grace Carroll is a Psychology and Communication double-major. Her research project, which was mentored by Dr. Alessandra Beasley Von Burg, is titled “Health Education Research in Rural Kenya.” Her research abstract follows below:

“Sub-Saharan Africa has 24% of the world’s disease burden, but is addressed with less than 1% of the world’s health care spending”- Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half of the Sky

With this information in mind, the research idea for me to study Health Communication, particularly in the education system in Kenya was developed and implemented. This research is focused primarily in a rural area near the base of Mount Kenya, where 20,000 people depend on one health clinic and the idea of Health Education on precautionary topics is extremely new.

Though the research began with researching how health concerns were communicated, it quickly changed as it became apparent that health concerns were scarcely communicated or mentioned at all. The three main areas of research were Samaria Health Center, the local clinic that treats the sick throughout the community; Mapema Primary School and Mountain Star Academy, two local elementary schools where participant observation took place, trial “Health Seminars” were developed, tested, and successful; and starting a CommunityDevelopment Center that will continue to encourage healthy lifestyles and provide educational books and references regarding health concerns. The focal point of the research ended up being educating children on basic preventative health initiatives that they could implement, and the beneficial effects of these throughout the community.

Amy Liang:

Amy Liang is a senior biology major with a minor in sociology. The title of her research project “Determining the Linkages between Homelessness, Diet, and Diabetes,” and her faculty mentors were Dr. Saylor Breckenridge and Dr. Ana Wahl. To read her research abstract, see below:

Research Abstract: In recent years, Type II diabetes has become one of the fastest growing public health concerns in the United States, in part as a result of increasing obesity rates. As awareness of this problem grows, it is a social and human imperative to determine how diabetes is affecting the poor. Connolly, et al (2000) have shown that Type II diabetes, occurring in the middle years of life (between the ages of 40-69 years), is inversely associated with socio-economic status1. Despite the unique set of challenges that diabetes presents to the homeless, a gap exists in both the medical and sociological literature addressing the particular association between homelessness and diabetes. The goal of this study is to 1) investigate the prevalence of Type II diabetes among the homeless in Winston-Salem, NC and 2) to attempt to identify some of the factors that could exacerbate diabetes or increase the risk of its development in homeless individuals. Data for this study was obtained through individual interviews at each of the four homeless shelters in Winston-Salem.