UM-Flint Public Health Alumna Wins "Best Oral Presentation" Award

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Jennifer Okungbowa-Ikponmwosa

Jennifer Okungbowa-Ikponmwosa is a graduate of the Master of Public Health program with a concentration in Health Care Administration at UM-Flint, and a second-year medical student at Oakland University's William Beaumont School of Medicine. Jennifer recently won the prize for "Best Oral Presentation" at the 2017 Medical Equity's Health Equity Research Conference. The goal of the conference is to promote health equity in urban settings with the principle that everyone is able to attain their maximum health potential. The conference was held at Wayne State University on February 18, 2017.

Jennifer presented in the oral presentation category alongside other grad students and medical students from various universities across Michigan. She presented research from her master's degree capstone in response to the Flint water crisis. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Director the Pediatric Residency Program at Hurley Medical Center, who helped uncover the Flint Water Crisis, attended Jennifer's presentation.

In her research, Jennifer assessed whether women of reproductive age were knowledgeable about the effects of water lead contamination on pregnancy. She also examined women's knowledge on how to reduce exposure to lead-contaminated water and alleviate the effects of exposure. "One reason we completed this research is that 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Women can be unknowingly exposing themselves and their unborn child to lead-contaminated water," said Jennifer.

Dr. Gergana Kodjebacheva and Dr. Lisa Lapeyrouse, Assistant Professors in the Department of Public Health and Health Sciences, were Jennifer's capstone advisors. "Drinking lead-contaminated water during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and infant mortality," said Dr. Kodjebacheva. "Through the research, Jennifer found that most women living inside and outside of Flint who participated in the study had limited knowledge about the effects of lead and how to prevent lead exposure during pregnancy. She recommends several strategies to prevent drinking lead-contaminated water," said Dr. Kodjebacheva

"I hope to integrate what I've learned in my Masters of Public Health courses with the way I practice medicine," said Jennifer, "by working to decrease health disparities in patients within the community that I will serve. I hope to help increase access to healthcare by advocating on behalf of patients in underserved populations through organizations such as the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association. I hope to build a rapport with local leaders within the community that I am serving in order to better understand how I can effectively serve them."

The capstone project also included a policy piece. "The political piece of my capstone will be presented in Washington, DC during SNMA's Lobby Day. We will be using some of the things I've learned through my research to help influence members of Congress," said Jennifer. Jennifer was one of two medical students across the United States chosen as a Student National Medical Association Health Policy and Legislative Affairs Fellow for the 2016-2017 term.

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