virtual grad summit

The Public Health Undergraduate Summit, a much-anticipated biannual event that highlights student projects, went virtual in April at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. From living rooms across the islands, students, faculty members, alumni and public health community members joined via Zoom to watch students explain their completed, or proposed, projects.

This spring semester, 37 students presented posters of their literature reviews (an early step of the capstone project), and nine others shared research findings or policy analyses based on completed service-learning experiences.

The capstone projects are completed over three semesters, where students familiarize themselves with a public health topic and apply it, either in a community or research setting while working with a community mentor or faculty advisor. Then students spend a semester linking the academic preparation to their field experiences and presenting their work.

“We’re so proud of these students,” said Vanessa Buchthal, an assistant professor with the Office of Public Health Studies, who helped coordinate the summit. “We moved to online education while the students were in the middle of working on their projects, and they’ve come through.”

Many students focused their projects on public health issues facing Hawaiʻi. Yongqi Ou investigated ways to prevent opioid misuse in Hawaiʻi, Taryn Furman studied access to water sports for children with disabilities and Kaitlin Tilitile researched how to increase suicide prevention awareness among teachers in Hawaiʻi. Samantha Harper looked at policies to increase access to after school programs for youth in Hawaiʻi and Christine Quiaoit examined ways to prevent falls in older adults.

“We’ve received some wonderful feedback from alumni and community members who were excited to participate via Zoom this year,” said Denise Nelson-Hurwitz, the undergraduate chair for public health.

“The students have done a lovely job, and we’re excited to see some of them graduate and join the community of public health workers in Hawaiʻi,” Buchthal said. “A strong public health workforce is needed now more than ever.”