The Katie Memorial Foundation, Inc. is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2008 Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship is Nicole Kellier, Ph.D candidate in Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel School of Public Health (SSPH) at Florida International University. Nicole will be publicly recognized as the scholarship recipient at the March 7th SSPH alumni event in Miami, FL.
Nicole Kellier will use the scholarship to supplement the cost of an international health program in Jamaica. She will bring a group of public health students to Jamaica this summer, as part of an annual medical mission trip to provide free health service to those in need who cannot afford to pay for care. Additionally, the group will study the incidence of prostate cancer in Jamaica, which is the highest in the world, as well as two other chronic diseases, diabetes and hypertension, which contribute heavily to the health burden among Jamaicans. A long-term goal of the project is to promote culturally-appropriate health behaviors that may prevent morbidity and mortality related to these diseases.
Among an exceptional field of finalists, Nicole received a near-perfect score from each of the nine judges on our scholarship panel. Individual judges noted her “clear commitment to making an immediate and positive impact in Jamaica,” “exceptional attention to detail,” “great potential for future work in international health,” and “impressive experience” as among the reasons for her high score.
Nicole currently works as a teaching assistant in the epidemiology and biostatistics department of SSPH. Previously, she has worked as a nursing administrator, pediatric oncology research coordinator, cancer epidemiology associate, and infectious diseases research assistant. Since 2005, she has served as the research coordinator for the Annual Jamaica Medical Mission. She is a volunteer for the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, and Southeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. Nicole received her master’s degree in public health (epidemiology) from George Washington University in 2003.
You can contact Nicole via email at Nicole.Keller@fiu.edu.
Here is the narrative portion of her scholarship application (my formatting):
As a doctoral student, the main focus of my research is the burden of chronic disease in the Caribbean community. I began studying chronic disease in the Caribbean population when I read a study, years ago, that said that Jamaican men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world. The study was conducted in Jamaica, a developing country. According to what we learn about developing countries, infectious disease, not chronic disease should be the major health burden in this population. As I’ve learned more about the population and their health needs I found that diabetes and hypertension also contribute heavily to the health burden among Jamaicans.
For the past 3 years I have had the opportunity to participate in an annual medical mission trip to Jamaica. The purpose of this trip is to provide free health services to those in need who cannot afford to pay for care. Each year I am able to learn from the population we serve and to participate in activities that essentially change people’s lives. Just last year I worked with the Jamaican Cancer Society to provide the opportunity for women to be tested for breast cancer (mammograms) and cervical cancer (pap smears) free of charge to the participants.
This year I would like to assist in providing these services again along with a well planned educational component. This year I plan on bringing a group of public health students to participate in well organized intervention activities. The students will develop a chronic disease education program addressing the chronic diseases encountered most frequently in this population, hypertension and diabetes. We will develop an education program along with culturally appropriate recommendations for changes in lifestyle factors.
The goal is to follow up with the participants annually to find out if they have adopted the recommended behavior changes, why or why not. The goal is to not only treat the health problems identified but to promote culturally appropriate better health behaviors in order to prevent morbidity and mortality related to disease.
I would love to have a positive impact on the lives of the people I am able to work with. One of my goals in participating in this trip every year is to track the health of this group over time to evaluate whether we have been successful in improving the health status of the group we serve and initiating long-term positive lifestyle changes. The students will be educated prior to the trip on important cultural factors associated with the Jamaican population. An important consideration in the development of our plan is to be open to learning while sharing knowledge. The funds provided by this scholarship will be used to cover the cost of my travel to and from the island along with room and board for the duration of the trip. The remainder of the funds may be used to help pay for printing cost for education materials.