March 29, 2022

The Community Engagement Fellowship program at UNC-Chapel Hill awards a maximum of eight fellowships of up to $2,500 each year for engaged scholarship projects that are responsive to community priorities and have an academic connection. This year, three students of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health were chosen as fellows.

They will work in collaboration with community partners and faculty mentors from March through November 2022. Their project overviews are below:

Landscape analysis of environmental justice organizing and advocacy in North Carolina

Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship

Caylin Luebeck and Lindsay Savelli, who study in the Health Equity concentration of the Gillings School’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program, will work with community partner Għanja O’Flaherty at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. Their faculty advisor is Courtney G. Woods, PhD.

Project Overview: “Since the birth of the environmental justice (EJ) movement in 1982, North Carolina has remained a fertile ground for organizing around environmental health issues. Research shows that community organizers play a crucial role in obtaining knowledge directly from those impacted by a public health issue. With most grassroots organizing, the work is decentralized and rarely tracked in a systematic way that would allow organizers to assess, over a long period of time, which practices and strategies were most effective.

Also, across communities, organizers may be duplicating efforts. Conversely, the need for an amplification of effort may remain lesser known. Given the number and range of environmental issues impacting North Carolina’s communities, we believe a systematic analysis of the landscape of EJ work will open opportunities for organizers to work more effectively, enhance cohesion and partnership across communities and organizations, and build greater potential to drive systems change.”

Canary in the Coal Mine: Dogs as sentinels of an emerging Lyme Disease epidemic in Watauga County

Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship

Katherine Tyrlik is part of the Applied Epidemiology concentration in the UNC Gillings MPH program. She will collaborate with community partner Stephanie van der Weshuizen and faculty advisor Ross Boyce, MD.

Project Overview: Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 4% increase from 2018, with 34,945 reported cases of Lyme disease. The number of Lyme disease cases are predicted to continue increasing in coming years due to factors such as climate change and increased globalization. Over the years, the state of North Carolina has been at the crossroads of the vector-borne illness epidemic, but Lyme disease remains severely underreported.

In the most recent year of Lyme surveillance, Watauga County, NC, reported no human cases of Lyme disease. This is particularly surprising since the number of Lyme disease cases in domestic dogs has been on the rise in this county. The disparity in case numbers implies that the human data is not an accurate representation of the Lyme disease problem in Watauga County. There is evidence of a correlation between Lyme disease cases in dogs and humans — therefore, using domestic dogs as sentimental animals in Lyme surveillance could offer an early detection method in high-risk areas.

Read about the projects of all 2022 Community Engagement Fellows at the CCPS website.

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