Spring 2015

Haiti - group

UF M.P.H. students conduct internships in Haiti

Water quality, mosquito-borne disease transmission and medical record collection were topics of research projects conducted by five University of Florida master’s in public health students who completed their internships in Gressier, Haiti this spring.

Kirstin Blanzy and Steven Peterson collect water samples.

Kirstin Blanzy and Steven Peterson collect water samples.

Kirstin Blanzy, Melani Dickenson and Steven Peterson, students in the M.P.H. environmental health concentration, focused on mapping GPS points and collecting water samples from areas that are popular with local Haitians. Blanzy and Dickenson tested water samples for the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals, which can cause adverse effects on the body’s developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune systems. Peterson explored whether water sources contaminated with endocrine disrupting chemicals had an effect on mosquito growth and development.

“The combination of high disease burden from mosquitoes in Haiti and the extreme contamination of Haitian drinking water sources make this novel interdisciplinary study important to Haiti’s public health,” Peterson said.

Elta Desvaristes, a student in the social and behavioral sciences concentration, partnered with the Lassale Christianville School to create efficient ways of capturing students’ physical examination measurements.

“It is my goal to enter medical school upon graduating from the M.P.H. program and this internship has made it possible for me to obtain the international experience I needed to become a culturally competent physician in the future,” she said.

Last year the Christianville School experienced 275 cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that causes fever and joint pain. Rebecca Zimler, a student in the epidemiology concentration, assessed mosquito density at homes of confirmed patients to predict which mosquito species is primarily responsible for chikungunya disease transmission. Patients’ homes were mapped using GPS coordinates for future risk assessment.

Rebecca Zimler examines specimens at the UF Public Health Laboratory.

Rebecca Zimler examines specimens at the UF Public Health Laboratory.

Student efforts were developed in close collaboration with Madsen Beau de Rochars, M.D., M.P.H., a research assistant professor in the PHHP department of health services research, management and policy who coordinates all research activities at the UF Public Health Laboratory in Gressier, and Liz Wood, M.P.H, the community outreach coordinator for the M.P.H. program. Both were on the ground with students for the initial days of their internships, ensuring that student plans were implemented in accordance with local authorities, policies and regulations. Wood stayed in Christianville for an additional four weeks, working closely with students to trouble shoot problems, adapt projects as needed, and provide ongoing structure and guidance.


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