Human Science Major Focuses on Public Health

SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 - Mary Amaechi (NHS’14), a human science major at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, co-authored a recent article in the journal The Gerontologist.

The manuscript reviewed four books that look at the concepts of aging and self through personal narratives.

Working with lead author Pamela Saunders, PhD, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center, Amaechi read and provided her perspective on Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology (Oxford, 2010).

A goal, Amaechi says, is “using these stories to see how we can provide better care or cater to the needs of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Health Literacy

Amaechi has worked with Saunders for the past couple years and has begun recently as the professor’s research assistant.  During this time, she has had the chance to observe medical students and hone in on her own academic interests.

“I had the opportunity to shadow medical students at the Washington Home,” she says.  “I got to see how the medical students ran their shifts and the different diagnoses they gave for the elderly patients.”

The senior - who grew up in Washington, DC, and attended Benjamin Banneker Academic High School - has currently begun to focus on public health and health care, particularly around health literacy.

“That’s a huge point in the research we’re doing this semester,” she says.  “We trying to figure out ways we can measure the health literacy among these elders.”

Such measurements, she says, can help assess the individuals' accessibility to health information.

‘Warm and Open Environment’

Amaechi says she has gained a great deal from the relationships she has developed with Georgetown faculty, especially Daniel Merenstein, MD, associate professor of family medicine and human science.

“He helped me figure out what I was interested in,” says Amaechi, who is also involved with the Minority Health Initiative Council at NHS and Campus Outreach, an affiliated Protestant ministry at Georgetown.  “He took time to talk with me after class and helped me link up with people at the medical center.”

She also highlighted Donna Cameron, PhD, associate professor of family medicine and an adjunct at NHS.  Cameron introduced Amaechi to Saunders, who is currently her preceptor for the Human Science Senior Internship.

“I am really appreciative for the network and the professors’ willingness to help students in general,” she says.  “It’s a really warm and open environment.”

By Bill Cessato