Tag Archives: public health

Honors Benefits: Seth Smitherman Honors Travel Fund Award

The University Honors Program has been working this year to enlarge the list of benefits of being a student in the University Honors Program. Historically, we have focused on some abstract benefits of participating in the University Honors Program such as our interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://goo.gl/TjIxOL). In addition to these benefits, we have also begun to make connections with programs around campus that we feel help students with their personal, professional, and intellectual development.

In addition  expanding opportunities on campus, this year LAUNCH: Honors also established an Honors Travel Fund, providing up to 10 awards of $200 each to support activities aligned with the University Honors Program mission of challenging high-achieving undergraduate students to develop the personal, professional, and intellectual skills they will need to address tomorrow’s multifaceted problems. In this post, Seth Smitherman describes the conference he attended with the support of his Honors Travel Fund award.

Seth Smitherman ’17

My name is Seth Smitherman ’17. I am a senior Biomedical Sciences major graduating in August, and I am an undergraduate researcher with Dr. Jennifer Horney in the School of Public Health. We conducted a unique public health assessment of Bryan College Station and the surrounding area last December to assess risk for certain neglected tropical diseases in Brazos County. Dr. Horney encouraged me to submit my abstract for a poster presentation spot at the Annual Education Conference of the Texas Public Health Association. Under her careful tutelage, I was able to get the abstract accepted, and before I knew it, I was off to Fort Worth.

As I sheepishly approached the registration desk at the Hilton in the heart of downtown Fort Worth to check in at my first professional research conference, I was both excited and slightly nervous about what was in store for me over the next few days. Here I stood, a know-nothing undergraduate biomedical sciences student, surrounded by M.D., Ph.D. and MPH-bestowed professionals, many with extensive and highly decorated careers in the field of public health. Over the course of the next two days, I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth with which I received into this conference of professionals. Any concerns I may have initially had about not fitting in or being out of my league were quickly put to rest by the friendliness my fellow attendees showed me. It was obvious that they saw young students such as me as the future continuation of all the work they did on a day to day basis and encouraged me to continue to pursue the field of public health.

While presenting at the grand opening poster presentation, I was able to discuss the results of my research with the lead epidemiologists in various public health jurisdictions across the state, including people from Travis, Brazos, Williamson, and Tarrant counties. I received some tips and pointers on how to effectively write the rest of my thesis based on the data I presented and was even able to teach the experts a thing or two about how to modernize their public health data collection techniques.

As always, I was able to lean on the support of Kahler Stone, a DrPH student working with me on the project with Dr. Horney for guidance and advice on how to navigate a research conference. During those times when we weren’t by our posters, I took Kahler’s advice attending some of the various breakout presentations. Among other talks, I got to hear David Gruber, a commissioner at the Texas Department of State Health Services, discuss the state of the state’s health and compare the state of Texas to the rest of the United States. He also talked about short- and long-term strategies for improving the state’s health any places where we fall behind – mainly in maternal health and infant mortality rates. I also got to hear presentations that were directly relevant to my research topic, covering such topics as Chagas disease, the emergence of Zika virus, and infectious diseases like rabies and tuberculosis.

Overall, I sincerely enjoyed my experiences at the TPHA conference. It was a chance to teach and learn from some of the most accomplished public health professionals in the state of Texas, and I hope that my research leads me back to their annual conference at some point in the future.

For more information about the Honors Travel Fund, visit http://to.ag/HonorsTravelFund. 

Honors Course Spotlight – Eva Koster ENTO 210

Besides stand-alone Honors sections, students pursuing Honors graduation distinctions at the department, college, or university level can earn Honors course credit through course contracts, independent study, graduate courses, or in stacked (or embedded) Honors sections. Stacked Honors sections have the same professor and meet at the same time and place as the non-Honors section (sometimes with an additional meeting), but have broader, deeper, or more complex learning experiences and expectations. In this post, University Scholar and biomedical sciences major Eva Koster ’18 describes her experience in a stacked Honors section.

By Eva Koster ‘18

Eva Koster '18
Eva Koster ’18

This past fall I was enrolled in Global Public Health Entomology (ENTO 210). This class focused on vector-borne diseases and their impact not only on human health but socio-economic development throughout the world. These course objectives further led into discussions about the public health infrastructure as well as various vector control measures.

Once I glanced through the syllabus, I knew I wanted to expand on my knowledge in this area. After taking a similar course the previous semester, I was hooked on anything that could potentially cause a zombie apocalypse. When Dr. Michel Slotman, the course professor, offered a separate honors section for ENTO 210, I jumped at the chance. Dr. Slotman explained that this separate section will still attend the regular course, but will compose an additional scientific research paper outside of class. The honors students were to analyze malaria vector monitoring data collected by his team in Bioko Island from 2009 to 2013, which included insecticide resistance frequency, human biting rates and malaria infection rates. We were to interpret our findings in terms of the impact of mosquito population control.
To be honest, I was very apprehensive at first. I had never written a research paper before, much less analyzed years’ worth of data statistically and coherently. But Dr. Slotman and his teaching assistants must have sensed that we would have no idea where to begin, and they offered us an abundant amount of guidance and assistance throughout the entire semester. The daunting task was now surprisingly very manageable.

My aspiration is to become a physician, and after shadowing a few doctors I’ve realized the importance of continuing one’s education by keeping up-to-date with recent discoveries. I recognized that it was not only important to be able to interpret data collected in a study, but to be able to incorporate this analysis to a plan of action, whether that be a disease treatment or prevention measures. Thanks to this honors course, I have gained invaluable knowledge in how to approach a problem, and I have humbly gained self-confidence that I am able to do so effectively.

Because of the honors section of ENTO 210, I am now pursuing research that has to do with zoonotic diseases and their impact on humans. By simply following my interests, I was granted an opportunity to expand my knowledge and worldview. And I beg you to do the same. Who knows, maybe thanks to an honors course contract you’ll be able to stop a zombie apocalypse one day.

For more information about options for earning Honors credit, visit http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/Earning-Honors-Credit.