July 17, 2017

Mentorship Program Encourages Careers in Public Health

Eliminating tuberculosis, preventing violence, and improving health for people worldwide.

A mentoring program provided jointly by the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and the Arkansas Department of Health has inspired students to study and make an impact in these areas of public health — areas they may not have thought about before participating in the program.

The Stead Scholars Mentorship Program is in its seventh year.

Students receive a $2,200 stipend to complete a public health project while working with a mentor for eight weeks. They get an introduction to public health, including exposure to science by public health professionals, clinical practice and health policy development. Students learn about topics such as Zika and Lyme disease, the opioid epidemic and climate change.

2017 Stead Scholars

2017 Stead Scholars (from left to right) are Katherine Darden, Kristin Donadeo, Aaron Underhill, James Abraham, Rachel Parker, Sarah Munro, and Jared Goff.

This year’s Stead Scholars are James Abraham, Kristin Donadeo, Jared Goff, Rachel Parker, Sarah Munro, Katherine Darden, and Aaron Underhill.

“This is an opportunity to show students what public health entails, and perhaps we can encourage them to consider a professional career in public health,” said Joseph Bates, M.D., professor and associate dean for public health practice in the College of Public Health. Bates recently retired as deputy state health officer and chief science officer at the Arkansas Department of Health.

The program, named for William “Bill” Stead, M.D., began in 2012 as a way to attract younger people to the public health field. Stead, who was an internationally recognized physician, scientist, educator and humanitarian, served as the Tuberculosis Control Officer for 26 years at the Arkansas Department of Health until his retirement in 1998. He is credited for developing innovative measures in tuberculosis treatment and control such as short course chemotherapy for tuberculosis and making groundbreaking contributions in tuberculosis control among the elderly and prison system. After his death in 2004, his friends created an endowment to memorialize his work.

William Stead, M.D.

William “Bill” Stead, M.D.

The Stead endowment provides funds for two students, while the College of Public Health funds additional students each summer. Twenty-one students have completed the program.

Katy Allison, Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant in the College of Public Health, was among the first class of Stead Scholars in 2012.

“The Stead Scholars Program was my first introduction to public health after graduating college. I am grateful for the opportunity the program gave me because it jump-started my career in public health,” said Allison. “I knew very little about public health or the potential for a career in the field before the Stead program, but the experience exposed me to an area I fell in love with, Trauma and Injury Prevention.”

Allison developed a report on the Arkansas Trauma System, which is readily accessible and still used by public health professionals. After the program, Allison enrolled in the UAMS College of Public Health and earned a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree and is pursuing a doctorate in health promotion and prevention research because of her interest in injury and violence prevention.

Sydney Haldeman, who went through the program in 2014, recently finished her M.P.H. at Boston University. Prior to the Stead Scholars Program, Haldeman wanted to pursue a career in biology, but now she is pursuing a career in global health because of her experience in the program.

“Because of this program, I’m now genuinely excited about public health and I hope to work in this field one day,” said Haldeman.

Heather Prowse, who is entering her senior year at Hendrix College, completed the program in 2016.

“I was able to work with Dr. Lori Fischbach at the College of Public Health when I was in the program,” Prowse said. “I even co-authored a paper that’s in process of being published.”

Prowse credits her guidance from Bates in encouraging her to go into the public health field, which led her to an internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. After graduation, Prowse plans to pursue an M.D./M.P.H. degree.

“The Stead Scholars program has been in place for several years now and it has served to introduce promising college undergraduates to the many and varied career opportunities in public health” Bates said.