School of Health Sciences Members Present Research to Industry Professionals
Meet two Chargers who recently represented the University of New Haven at the annual Connecticut Public Health Association conference. They discussed their important research exploring students’ knowledge of COVID-19 and weight control behaviors among journalists.
January 5, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When the University of New Haven shifted to online learning last spring amid the coronavirus global pandemic, Yanice Mendez-Fernandez ’21 MPH became interested in exploring college students’ perceptions and knowledge of the virus. She began working on a study to do just that.
Using a 50-question survey, she assessed University of New Haven students’ understanding of COVID-19, perceptions of risk, and the impact of the virus on them, which included mental health, quality of life, and social cohesion. She presented her findings at the annual Connecticut Public Health Association (CPHA) conference, which was held virtually late last year.
“The CPHA conference always addresses topics that are relevant to the current climate, and it is always a wonderful experience to participate,” said Mendez-Fernandez, Ph.D., a lecturer in the University of New Haven’s department of biology and environmental science. “By presenting our data at the conference, I hope we make the community aware of the impact the pandemic has on college students.”
Mendez-Fernandez, Ph.D., whose background is in infectious and inflammatory diseases, examined how the impact of COVID-19 varied between undergraduate and graduate students and international and domestic students, and across different programs of study.
“Yanice delivered a compelling oral presentation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on School of Health Sciences students,” said Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, chair of the University’s health administration and policy department. “As director-at-large of CPHA and moderator of the COVID-19 breakout session, I am proud to have had one of our own student’s work highlighted at the virtual conference. Yanice deftly discussed the stark differences we observed regarding the financial, stress/anxiety, and academic impacts of the pandemic on undergraduate and graduate students.”
‘I hope to continue doing more research’
Bryan Cadavos ’23 also represented the University at the conference, presenting his research exploring weight control behaviors among journalists. He has been conducting this research with Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, and Michele Smallidge, Ed.D., RD, as part of his work with the University’s WeEmbody Lab as a student research assistant.
“Being able to share the results of the research was an experience that I will not forget,” said Cadavos, a genetics and biotechnology major. “People who joined my virtual booth were intrigued by the topic, and I was able to inform them that those who work in the news industry go through a lot that people do not realize. The conference was a great opportunity because it helped me begin what I want to pursue as a researcher. I learned a lot, and I hope to continue doing more research in the future.”
The conference was Cadavos’s first, and he is grateful for Dr. Tran’s mentorship and guidance. He says the experience improved his public speaking skills and his confidence as a researcher.
Dr. Tran says Cadavos’s presentation, as well as the recent publication of his research, impressed his audience.
“Presenting at a conference provides students with many opportunities for growth,” he said. “Students are not only able to present their research, but they are able to gather feedback from experts in their respective fields. He was professional, clearly understood the methodology of his project, and was receptive to feedback from those who watched his oral presentation.”
‘Changing the landscape of higher education’
Mendez-Fernandez, the master of public health candidate, also hopes to publish her results. She is continuing to expand the study, and she hopes to increase the sample size and collect additional data.
“Because there has been so much uncertainty and misinformation around the pandemic, it is important to learn people's attitudes and beliefs about COVID-19, especially those concerning transmission and prevention,” she said. “The pandemic is changing the landscape of higher education, and we need to learn how the student population is impacted by the pandemic to address specific barriers to learning.”