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SU Students Present Research at APHA Conference

Students Eliza Hurd and Sean RoesenerSALISBURY, MD---The research of two students in Salisbury University’s Glenda Chatham and Robert G. Clarke Honors College landed them among graduate and doctoral students of the Ivy League and R1 research institutions across the nation at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) 2022 conference. 

This year’s conference and anniversary celebration theme, “150 Years of Creating the Healthiest Nation: Leading the Path Toward Equity,” aligned with the research of SU juniors Sean Roesener and Eliza Hurd as part of the honors course Public Health Law, taught by Dr. Sherry Maykrantz, assistant professor of public health. 

“I am so incredibly proud of Sean and Eliza,” said Maykrantz. “To come up with an abstract for research is hard enough, but for it to be optional, and then have to actually complete the research on your own time and not for a course or grade is a testament to how dedicated they are to their academic and professional futures in their fields.” 

What started as an optional abstract submission in lieu of the final exam last spring soon led to completing the research and presenting at the conference in Boston this fall after the pair was selected by the APHA, leading them to be some of the only undergraduate students presenting research.  

“To see SU represented as a peer with some of the biggest names in higher education and public health at a massive conference shows just how competitive our programs are and the quality of education that our students are receiving,” Maykrantz said. 

“These are students from one course on the topic, outside of their majors and disciplines, and the law section is a very dynamic and complex area to be chosen to represent.” 

Hot topics in public health law were among the criteria for the law research section. Both students tapped into the theme with hot button issues like COVID-19 funding distribution and reporting, mental health, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) legislation and the safety of student athletes.  

Roesener, an exercise science major from Bel Air, MD, presented his research, “Rhabdomyolysis in the NCAA” – and as his conference poster stated: no, it’s not the name of a dinosaur.

“Over the last decade, the NCAA has had multiple incidents of this condition, where muscle fibers break down and leak into the bloodstream, usually due to overworking,” said Roesener. “I wanted to examine why student athletes are experiencing this physical overworking at the collegiate level and to see if legislation could be created to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Hurd, a medical laboratory science major from Elkton, MD, presented her research, “Analyzing the Efficacy of Public School Mental Health Systems.” 

“I looked into the COVID-19-related American Rescue Plan Act funding dedicated to schools to reopen and address the mental health, social, emotional and academic needs of students,” said Hurd. “I wanted to analyze the mental health interventions in public schools, determine how effective the programs were and identify how remaining funds can be used to further improve the mental health of students.”

These timely and topical issues were a hit at the conference, where graduate students and health professionals flocked to Roesener and Hurd wanting to know what they found, what came next and what school they were from.

“I can’t describe the feeling of not only being among those from Yale and Harvard, but having people come up to us who were so impressed and genuinely interested,” said Hurd. “It was so validating to know the work we did was at the level of and applicable to those currently in these fields or in graduate school.”

“It was definitely nerve-wracking and intimidating going in,” said Roesener. “But everyone was so kind and welcoming. They asked great questions and always wanted to know more. It felt good to be held accountable for your work and felt even better to be able to answer all of their questions. You walk away knowing you did a good job, and I’m so happy I did the whole process from start to finish.” 

Maykrantz knew they would be successful if they followed the abstract theme, chose topics they were truly interested in, and were open to meeting new people and networking. 

“The conference was so much bigger than any of us initially thought,” she said. “Their work truly fit with what the themes and topics were, and the interest shown spoke volumes. Their passion for their work allowed them to effortlessly discuss and network with programs, businesses and people that otherwise would have never been this accessible.”

An overlapping takeaway from their research is that there are more questions than answers and more work to be done.

“I found that data on mental health programs and funding can be hard to find outside of the mandatory reporting required and that the efficacy of the funding won’t be known until a few years from now,” said Hurd. “What is certain is that mental health programming and staffing shortages are prevalent across the nation, and more policies and funding are needed.” 

“In order to keep athletes healthy, safe, and at peak performing condition, it’s crucial for policies to be created requiring athletes and coaches to communicate and the NCAA to require safeguard consistencies across universities,” said Roesener. “NCAA focus on hydration and the intensity and frequency of practices has grown in recent years. I think post-practice communication and recovery transparency is the best next step.” 

Both students agreed that the experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the opportunities provided by SU. 

“I still go to Dr. Maykrantz for help and advice, and I’m not even in her class anymore,” said Hurd. “What’s special about SU and the Honors College is the dynamic with students and faculty. You meet a lot of students you might not have met otherwise, and there’s an open discussion format where you’re able get to know your professors and their interests and specialties. 

“I think the more you are involved, the more you get more out of the experience, and you definitely feel like you are part of the discussion and your opinion is respected.”

“Without being a member of the Honors College, I would have never taken this course and never had Dr. Maykrantz as a professor,” said Roesener. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the class that I would be traveling to Boston to present at a national conference and networking for future graduate schools and internships with some of the top performers in the field, I would have never believed you.” 

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