September 19, 2023

Heersink School of Medicine students participate in inaugural Alabama Department of Public Health summer program

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Grier Cody thumbnailMany students from Heersink School of Medicine participate in summer research programs each year across a variety of disciplines. In 2023, second-year medical students Cody Grier and Henry Haken completed their summer research opportunity in an inaugural program with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). In partnership with the Heersink School of Medicine Montgomery Regional Campus, the ADPH provided guidance to Grier and Haken as they developed projects centered around health literacy.

Each student brainstormed their own research project, allowing them to select areas they are passionate about and committed to. Grier’s project analyzed an ADPH brochure about controlling one’s blood pressure. Through visits to Medical Outreach Ministries in Montgomery and the Montgomery County Health Department, he presented questionnaires about blood pressure to patients. They would fill out the questionnaire prior to reading the ADPH brochure and then answer the same questions after reading it. The data he collected provided insight into the effectiveness of the literature and its dissemination in the community.

“My summer internship at the Alabama Department of Public Health fundamentally changed how I view myself as a doctor in training and opened a world of possibilities in healthcare to me that I couldn’t previously imagine,” Grier states. “I would be remiss in not acknowledging and thanking the ADPH staff and local organizations in Montgomery that were so welcoming and helpful throughout my time there. They made me feel like a part of the family.”

Haken Henry thumbnailHaken performed a secondary data analysis on the ADPH’s diabetes prevention programs. He examined the number of prevention programs in Alabama and the regions within the state they are located, and he compared their effectiveness to programs around the United States. Haken also performed a policy analysis, identifying regions in Alabama that lacked diabetes prevention programs though needing them. He proposed a policy where the ADPH could bring these needed resources to areas of people that would greatly benefit from them.

Like his fellow medical student, Haken praises the Alabama Department of Public Health for the impact of its summer program. “My time at ADPH was an informative and frankly fun way to spend my research summer,” he says. “It helped me gain an understanding of how my medical career can intersect with the world of public health. I would recommend the ADPH to students looking to build research experience while learning more about public health from some of the best and friendliest that do it.”

Grier and Haken were introduced to the breadth of experiences found within the ADPH. In addition to learning about the process of policy formation, they participated in health inspections and environmental services. They toured the State House, observing a special legislative session and meeting with the state health committee. The goal was for them to be as immersed as possible into all the avenues that impact public health.

Amber Clark-Brown, M.D., a Public Health Officer and Medical Director within ADPH, served as the students’ preceptor. She mentored Grier and Haken throughout the experience and helped facilitate their learning during the 8-week program. “There is nothing like having two students who are eager and willing to learn,” notes Clark-Brown. “Cody and Henry were engaged and instructible the whole time. I was so happy to work with students who exhibited such a great amount of discipline, respect, and kindness. I am grateful to have had them in our program.”

Alongside other UAB Heersink School of Medicine students who completed summer research programs, Grier and Haken presented the data from their research and the findings from their analyses at the UAB Medical Student Research Day on September 11, 2023.

Click here for more information about UAB Medical Student Summer Research Programs.