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Three Questions with Health Studies Award Winners

Students share perspectives on their scholarly endeavors and what comes next

Cristian Mendoza GomezCristian M. Gomez: AU Summer Scholars and Artists Grant

What steps did you take to receive this award?
Applying for the AU Summer Scholars and Artists Grant takes substantive planning with one's faculty mentor regarding one's proposed research project. I needed to make sure that my proposed research topic was in an area lacking literature and that doing so, it would benefit other scholars with the new information. A thorough literature review needs to be conducted to make sure that the topic you're proposing will fill in existing gaps of research. This alone takes a lot of time, and then writing up the importance of your proposed topic. The application itself is a 2,000-word research proposal, including a literature review, aims of the study, methodology, and timeline of the project.

What does this award mean to you?
To be short, it means quite a lot. I've been involved in research since my first semester at AU, but I always had this battle of imposter syndrome throughout my work. One of the reasons contributing to that is you don't really see too many people from my background working in research and academia. I'm a first generation college student, first-generation Mexican-American, and the first person in my family to go to a private, four-year, institution. Right now, as I weigh what I want to do after my undergrad, I've been going back and forth whether research is right for me. Receiving this award, for me, reaffirms that I have a place in health research in the future if I want.

How do you plan on using this award?
Part of the money will be used towards conducting the research itself. Dr. Meriesh, my faculty mentor in the Department of Health Studies, and I plan on conducting a nationwide survey to understand the barriers to health care that sexual minority adolescents of color experience. The money will be used to advertise the survey online and to compensate the participants for their time taking the survey. Another portion of the money will be used for living expenses by staying in DC over the summer. However, one of my qualms with research, broadly, is how it doesn't always address the problems identified. After conducting the survey, we plan on writing a first draft of a paper to submit for publication. As a student in the Honors in Health Studies program, I hope to use the findings to inform an intervention that can actually address the disparities identified by the project through my future coursework and independent studies portion of the program.

Sophie Hathaway

Sophie Hathaway: Robyn Rafferty Fellowship

What steps did you take to receive this award?
In order to accurately describe what went into receiving this award, I have to give both an immense amount of credit and gratitude to my faculty mentor Dr. Ethan Mereish, as he was the person who originally suggested I apply for the fellowship and has supported my research since I began working at the Lavender Lab. Once we decided that I wanted to apply, I began doing a literature review for my topic, finding my dataset, drafting my grant proposal, and made upwards of four drafts before the final one was submitted. After finding a dataset that perfectly fit my topic it felt like the rest of the project just clicked and I had a clear vision and path moving forward on what this research was going to physically look like. 

What does this award mean to you?
Being from a rural area myself, receiving this award is deeply personal as I feel like I am now finally able to start giving back to my community in the form of much needed research into the health outcomes that derive from the intersections of rurality and sexual orientation. Rurality in America is a complicated concept and an area that desperately needs more equitable research, as interventions designed to improve health outcomes for rural individuals cannot be effective or evidence-based if there isn't good data to support them. This award to me is so exciting and powerful because of the potential my research could have to support programs and interventions for communities that are in need. 

How do you plan on using this award?
I plan to use this award to support myself financially so that I am able to work full-time on this research over the summer and don't have to worry about balancing a part-time job at the same time, as well as funding preparation for publication, conferences, and travel to conferences. Publishing my work and attending a conference has always been a goal of mine and so I am incredibly grateful for how the funding from this award has allowed me to allocate so much more time and energy into creating my best work. 

Ellie Kight

Ellie Kight: Cassell Award

What steps did you take to receive this award?
In AU Swimming & Diving, we value team over everything. I have always strived to ensure that my teammates are pushing each other and themselves to be the best version of themselves. Over the past four years, I have worked hard to be a leader my teammates can look up to, especially during the last year of obstacles. Outside of my athletics, I worked with a local non-profit organization, The Mindfulness Center, to help develop and implement programs that are currently being used to enrich the curriculum at public schools in the DMV area. I think these are just a few examples of steps I took to be considered for this award. 

What does this award mean to you?
Many outstanding and impressive AU students have previous won the Cassell Award; I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be added to that list of amazing students. The Cassell family has contributed so much to American University and its athletics, and I am honored to be recognized for my contributions during my four years on campus. 

How do you plan to use this award?
This award will help me as I move forward with the process of applying to medical school. I hope to attend beginning in Fall of 2022. In the meantime, I will be working as a medical scribe and coaching my club swim team back in Indiana (just not ready to give it up yet!)