Spring 2020 Student Spotlight – Leslie Laughrun

Leslie Laughrun is a Spring 2020 graduate of Leadership in Practice MPH concentration at the UNC-Asheville campus. She is currently an operations director at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, N.C.

Leslie Laughrun

Leslie Laughrun

What do you at Gillings (and why do you love it)?
I am a new graduate of the very first PHLP Leadership in Practice cohort in Asheville, N.C. I love our Asheville program because of the dedicated public health servants who worked so hard to bring the program to fruition. They are the embodiment of public health values and their vision of place-based public health is exactly what we need to engage communities and move our work forward.

What is your latest project? (This could be a recent practicum experience or work-related)
My latest project has been ushering my teams through the COVID-19 response. I am an operations director at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, N.C., and I have leveraged my public health training to guide how we continue to provide necessary health care services is a safe and responsible manner. I have also advocated for improvements to organizational policies to better align with Public Health goals in the context of disease spread.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
When not at work, I enjoy being outdoors and working in a new role on the board of directors for a local childcare center. The center is in the process of raising a new facility in a location that will better serve the children and families, so it is an exciting time to be involved.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Perspective is everything when it comes to removing public health barriers. My superpower of choice would be to change people’s perspectives without them realizing it! With this, I could change mindsets and policies that stand in the way of our goals for health, well-being and equity.

What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference to you?
This program has given me a heightened sense of awareness of how rampant structural racism is in our society. Though it is easy to become discouraged by this, I hope to convert my awareness into action by challenging those structures and mindsets, channeling my would-be superpower a bit.

What is something that you are looking forward to?
I look forward to continuing to find purpose in making a difference with the teams I lead and with the people we serve. While it is easy to see so many challenges with public health, we must remind ourselves that we make a difference each and every day and peoples’ lives are better for it.

Fall 2019 Student Spotlight – Sheila Drakeley

Sheila Drakeley

Sheila Drakeley

Shelia Drakeley is this issue’s Student Spotlight. Sheila Drakeley is a second year MPH student in the leadership concentration. Her recent work focuses on Women’s Health. She will be graduating in May 2020.

What do you do at UNC Gillings (and why you love it): I am a Master in Public Health student in the Leadership concentration, with a special focus on Maternal and Mental Health. I have enjoyed my time at Gillings and my opportunities to learn in a program that focuses on current issues in Public Health. Being a part of the Gillings community has allowed me to meet and learn from students from around the globe, while training under renowned professors in their respective fields.

Sheila stands in front of Uluru at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, which is a sacred spot to the aboriginal people of Australia. She is there to watch the sunset and watch the rock's color shades change as the sun light hits it

Sheila stands in front of Uluru at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, which is a sacred spot to the aboriginal people of Australia. She is there to watch the sunset and watch the rock’s color shades change as the sun light hits it.

Tell us about your practicum: I had the pleasure of completing my practicum experience in Melbourne, Australia at Monash University in the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI). With the MCHRI team, I was assigned to a project to test the accessibility of a Virtual Patient Assistant (VPA) in providing prenatal/ preconception health advice to women in Australia. The project was first field tested in Boston, Massachusetts and found to be successful for the target population. My practicum consisted of recruiting and executing focus groups with women between the ages of 18 – 45 to understand the benefits, acceptance and improvements the VPA system would need in order to be successful in an Australian context. In addition, understanding and evaluating the current guidelines and research compiled around preconception care. This work has since been submitted for presentation and publications and is pending acceptance.

What has been your greatest classroom experience so far? Being a part of the first online cohort for the Leadership concentration, I have thoroughly enjoyed the ability to take classes and learn while around the world. I have been fortunate enough to attend class while residing in five different countries over the course of the program. This opportunity has allowed me to experience the field first hand while still participating in classes.

What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue? Travel photography. While I have my own photography business, I love being able to capture the places I have been fortunate enough to visit. I would love to travel endlessly and see the world while documenting it in its natural form for the world to see via my photographs.

If you could only have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick and why? Hotels Tonight, because I am always looking last minute for the best deals and places to stay when I travel. I always love trying out local hotels that aren’t chain brands. Instagram, because I love seeing what my family and friends are up to or admiring amazing photographs from photographers and artists around the world. Mint, because it allows me to keep track of all my finances in one place. Having the ability to condense all my mobile banking and student loan apps under one platform allows me to stay diligent when payments are due and track my spending.

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning medal for? Mulitasking for sure! If you ask anyone around me they would all agree I am always working on more than one project at a time while juggling my personal and professional life. I like to keep busy and always look for new adventures and avenues I can invent my time and energy in.

Spring 2019 Student Spotlight – Victoria Taffe

Victoria Taffe

Victoria Taffe

Victoria Taffe is a second year MPH student in the leadership track. She is interested in monitoring and evaluation in global health. She will be graduating in May 2019.

What you do at UNC Gillings (and why you love it): I’m about to graduate with my MPH from the PHLP leadership track. I am also a graduate research assistant for the Maternal and Child Health Department WHO Collaborating Center. Throughout grad school, I have served on the Student Global Health Committee. I love both Gillings and my opportunities to learn here because the School attracts people from many different career paths and with unique experiences. I have enjoyed speaking with my peers and getting a sense of everyone’s perspectives on health issues and challenges.

What is the latest project that you are working on? I am proud of my master’s paper because it built on my practicum experience at MiracleFeet, a global health nonprofit in Chapel Hill. I was able to apply monitoring and evaluation skills learned in class to come up with a plan that could be used by the organization. Each of my practicum deliverables were meant for utility. I appreciated that my work had a practical purpose and made a real-world contribution.

What is your favorite past time? I love to be at the beach or hiking; I enjoy being in nature preferably away from technology. I also enjoy traveling abroad, but I like to be “off the grid” as much as possible.

 What is your favorite place that you visited? I’ve enjoyed hiking in Europe as well as through parts of South America. Access to open nature plus visiting historical sites and interacting with new people are what I like best in my trips. I always love going back to California to be at the beach with my family or friends, too!

What’s been your best learning/classroom experience so far: My practicum was my best learning experience during grad school. As a practical person, I really enjoyed seeing my work come to life. I was able to continue working on my practicum beyond the summer, which meant I had the opportunity to learn more about the organization over a year. Fortunately, my practicum preceptor was a Gillings alum from the leadership track. She was encouraging of my interest in learning as much as I could about different aspects of the organization’s work. I very much appreciated my advisors and professors at Gillings because they always made time to answer my questions and provided resources and connections to professionals in the field. People at Gillings, and UNC generally, are collaborative, encouraging, and eager to help each other.

What is your favorite snack or dessert? I really like s’mores and my mom’s rhubarb pie… Now I’m hungry!

Fall 2018 Spring Spotlight – Erin Frey

Erin Frey, DVM is a current student in the Public Health Leadership MPH program at Gillings. She is veterinarian and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and has been in companion animal veterinary practice since graduating from North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. Erin volunteers on leadership committees for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and has a particular interest in the interplay of human, animal and environmental health. Her manuscript entitled, “The role of companion animal veterinarians in One Health efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance,” is due to be published in the December 1, 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). Update: We are pleased to announce that Erin’s paper has been published. Read more about her research. 

Erin Frey, DVM

Erin Frey, DVM

What you do at UNC Gillings (and why you love it): I am an MPH student in the Leadership Track with a special focus on field epidemiology. I love being a student at UNC Gillings because I really enjoy the collaborative dynamic between students and faculty members. Many students are already within their career and are able to incorporate their background in the classroom. The use of first-hand experience really encourages rich discussions on how we can work together in the field as different stakeholders. The faculty are welcoming and inclusive, and I really love how they take a colleague approach with students and encourage our voices to be heard.

Tell us about your recent publication: My manuscript, which I began as part of a project for Introduction to Global Public Health led by Karine Dubé, has been accepted by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and will be published in December. The paper is essentially a call to action for companion animal veterinarians to more fully engage in One Health efforts to promote antimicrobial stewardship. Unfortunately, more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and as a result, there is fear that someday there won’t be a cure for infections caused by microbes like E. coli or Staphylococcus bacteria. Since these microbes can spread between humans and animals as well as through the environment, it is vital that stakeholders in all areas contribute to the research and behavior changes around antimicrobial use. One way to reduce the needs for antibiotics in the first place is to promote health through preventive medicine such as vaccines, behavioral change, good hygiene, diet or exercise.  

 What is your favorite pastime? I love working in my garden! I grow both flowers and tomatoes. While I work in the garden, I enjoy watching wildlife in action especially the birds. Working in the garden is my version of mindfulness and exercise because being in nature is really calming even when I am working hard shoveling mulch or digging in the dirt. I don’t have to worry about work while I’m in my garden. My plants don’t complain, and they don’t care about when the next PowerPoint is due!

 If I could wake up tomorrow having mastered one new ability: I would play the cello or piano because I love music. I played clarinet from 4th grade until adulthood but sadly I haven’t had much time recently because I am so busy with school, work and family life. Recently, I was really excited when my son came home and said that he wanted to play the cello. Maybe that means that I should get my clarinet out again and learn how to play the piano so that we can play together!

What is a fictional character that you identify with? I am big fan of Harry Potter, so I know that if I were sorted in Hogwarts, I would be a Ravenclaw. I am not afraid to say that I love to learn and study. Having said that, if I had to choose a specific character that I identify with, I would have to say Hermione Granger. Even though she wasn’t a Ravenclaw, she always valued learning and reading books, which I enjoy. Another aspect of Hermione’s character that I both admire and identify with is her willingness to break rules if they are unjust in order to protect and defend her friends. Hermione was able to walk that thin line between following the rules and doing what’s right.

 What is something that you are looking forward to? In my career, I would like to continue to build stronger connections within the public health field as well as between public health and other stakeholders who have an influence on the health of the public. When it comes to professionals in both human health and animal health, our work is more alike than different. For instance, I learned from my experience as a veterinarian that I experience many of challenges that pediatricians face. Our patients, whether a baby or a puppy, are not able to speak for themselves, and we rely on our physical examination skills and our ability to communicate with their caregivers, who speak on their behalf. In a lot of ways, I look for ways to help people too because if I recommend that a dog needs more exercise, I know that I am promoting exercise for the owner as well. It’s a mutual benefit on both sides. I look forward to being able to show those similarities so that we can do more collaborative and interdisciplinary research and demonstrate how we are all connected. Each person in the public health field is valuable and has a role to play regardless of whom we are serving.

Spring 2018 Student Spotlight – Claudia Panames

Claudia Panames teamed up with three other UNC students to compete in the 2018 CLARION Case Competition at the University of Minnesota. Each year, teams from various universities across the nation come together to discuss and propose a solution to current public health issues. Below is Claudia’s account of her experience at the event:

Yimo Wang (Pharmacy), Mallory Michalak (Social Work), Claudia Panames (Public Health), and Nisha Kamath (Dentistry)

(From the left to right) Yimo Wang (Pharmacy), Mallory Michalak (Social Work), Claudia Panames (Public Health), and Nisha Kamath (Dentistry)

“Our case focused on the opioid epidemic in a fictional town named “Delville” in West Virginia (W.V.), with high rates of unemployment, poverty, and difficult access to healthcare. The story focused on two unrelated characters. Both were 64 year olds who lived alone. Both suffered from depression and were uninsured. Both were opioid dependents. The major difference was their health outcome: one person survived an opioid overdose while the other did not.

My team and I researched programs that W.V. has already implemented to alleviate the opioid crisis. Although the state has programs focused on the several specific populations, we did notice a gap in services: there were no programs for people 45+, unemployed, uninsured and living in rural communities, such as the two individuals in the case. We found this gap particularly shocking since almost 50% of the W.V. population live in rural areas, and almost 30% of the W.V. population is 45 years of age and older. We wanted to propose a strategy that focused on this particular demographic.

My teammates and I developed a strategy with the following three components: 1) Integrated Chronic Pain Management 2) Education to health providers and 3) Social Connections. We proposed creating a network in which big hospitals in larger cities support smaller communities like “Delville” by opening small “satellite” clinics in rural communities to offer integrated chronic pain management, so patients and providers do not have to rely solely on opioids but on a “menu” of options such as physical therapy, counseling, peer recovery coaching to treat patients with chronic pain. We also proposed that providers comply with the proper chronic pain management and opioid prescription and monitoring guidelines. We also focused on the importance of establishing partnerships with already existing associations to connect isolated citizens with the community and help them find employment opportunities and social connections, which may be more difficult in rural communities.

The whole experience was very enjoyable. It was a great opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team. I was able to learn from the perspectives and experiences of three very different people with very different professions and cultural backgrounds. Now the four of us are really good friends!”