Three students from the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at Houston were awarded the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2014 Excellence in Public Health. Awarded by the United States Public Health Service, the award is given to medical students engaged in public health issues in their communities and raising knowledge about the U.S. Public Health Service.
Steven Blake Baker, Chetna Pande, and Andy Billnitzer are Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health students from UTHealth institutions who won the awards. “We are so proud of our students for the work they are doing to create better solutions to public health problems,” said the dean of the UTHealth School of Public Health Roberta Ness, M.D.
As a second-year student, Baker’s research focused on the use of therapeutic hypothermia in patients who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. “We wanted to bring public health practices to real-time clinical decisions,” said Baker, who is earning a medical degree at the UTHealth Medical School and a Master of Public Health at the UTHealth School of Public Health.
Under the mentorship of Pratik Doshi, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at the UTHealth Medical School, Baker analyzed the Houston Fire Department’s Cardiac Arrest Database to assess the benefits of therapeutic hypothermia in cardiac arrest, since its potential to keep blood flowing to the brain during a ventricular fibrillation heart attack has been proven. His conclusions are expected to be published later this year.
Pande and Billnitzer are both students from the Master of Public Health program at the UTHealth School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus and from the Doctor of Medicine degree at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. Their joint project has resulted in the creation of the first and only medical student-run free clinic in Sparks, a small community in El Paso, where 34 percent of the population are uninsured people.
“The need was clear and we were ready to contribute,” said Pande and Billnitzer, who worked for over a year to open the clinic. “Support poured in from the school, faculty, classmates and community.” Since its opening in October 2013, the clinic offered free primary health care to hundreds of patients, improved preventative health care through patient education and health care screenings, and provided a venue for managing chronic disease. Registration, triage, discharge, and all other clinic operations are managed by medical students, under the supervision of volunteer physicians.