2023 YSPH Student Awards
Dean’s Prize for Outstanding MPH Thesis: Emily Goddard
Thesis: Short-Term Exposure To Wildfire Smoke PM2.5 And Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression Among U.S. Veterans: A Cross-Sectional Study
In her MPH thesis, Goddard examined the relationship between short-term and long-term exposure to the fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) from wildfire smoke and symptoms of anxiety and depression among participants in the 2019 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Goddard, whose degree was in Social and Behavioral Sciences (climate change and health), was a data analyst for the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), and a graduate assistant for the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE). Her focus was on preventative health through equitable access to environmental resources. She was most interested in exploring the relationship between the environment and mental health, the health co-benefits of climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the environmental benefits of equitable and sustainable global food systems.
Dean’s Prize for Outstanding MPH Thesis: Caroline Helsen
Thesis: Are News Media Organizations Protecting Youth Mental Health? A Content Analysis of the Top 4 News Organizations on TikTok
Helsen (Social and Behavioral Sciences) wrote her thesis as a response to a December 2012 call to action by the Surgeon General to address the youth mental health crisis, including actions media organizations could take to protect viewers’ mental health. She analyzed a year of TikTok videos posted by the four American news organizations with the largest TikTok followings (ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and the Daily Wire) to determine whether they had taken steps to protect youth mental health. Her work at YSPH also included conducting policy research and focus groups for a labor union to inform recommendations for the electrification and weatherization of home-based childcare facilities; interning at UNICEF's Maternal Newborn Adolescent Health Unit; conducting a rapid-needs assessment for a local health department regarding COVID-19 vaccine uptake for children under 12 years old; teaching a graduate-level discussion section for a course on health equity; and interning at the Office of Policy and Planning within the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal Child Health Bureau.
Wilbur G. Downs Outstanding Thesis Prize in International Health: Savanna Randi
Thesis: Epidemiology of Human Hookworm (Necator americanus) Infection in Rural Ghana: Investigating Host-Parasite Factors That Mediate Infection
Hookworm infections cause significant morbidity in high-risk populations, and pose a global health concern in locations of rural poverty. Infections in sub-Saharan Africa account for nearly 40% of global hookworm infections, leading to increased morbidity. In her thesis, Randi, whose concentration was epidemiology (Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases), investigated the epidemiology of hookworm infection in Beposo, Ghana, from June to August 2022, aiming to provide insight into the host-parasite relationship and epidemiologic factors that mediate human hookworm infection in West Africa. Randi, a Horstmann Scholar and recipient of a Lindsay Fellowship for Research in Africa, was also a member of the testing staff of YSPH’s SalivaDirect initiative.
Outstanding MPH Thesis Prize in Health Equity: Anna Preston
Thesis: “I was reaching out for help and they did not help me”: Mental Healthcare in the Carceral State”
For her MPH thesis, Preston – who earned both her MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences at YSPH and her MD at the Yale School of Medicine in 2023 – examined the perspectives of nine people who experienced mental healthcare within the carceral state, whether in prison or on parole or probation, with a special focus on how attributes of the carceral state create ideological and functional barriers to effective mental healthcare. While working to complete her two degrees, Preston also found time to write poetry. One of her poems, Birth, was a co-winner in the poetry category of the Marguerite Rush-Lerner and Program for Humanities in Medicine Prize, an annual poetry, prose, and visual art competition open to all Yale health profession students. Another of her poems, Letter to a younger universe, earned an honorable mention.
Outstanding MPH Thesis Prize in Health Equity: Sydney Hussett-Richardson
Thesis: “Hair-Esteem Toolkit for Black Girls”: The development of a self-esteem toolkit for Black adolescent girls centering hair as a tool for empowerment
Hussett-Richardson, whose MPH is in Social and Behavioral Sciences, wrote her thesis to explore the relationship between self-esteem and hair among Black girls, and integrated her findings into a culturally relevant digital toolkit to promote and develop their hair-esteem and self-esteem. Gendered racism and Eurocentric beauty standards pathologize Black girls and their hair, she wrote, leading them to experience high rates of hair harassment and discrimination. These experiences negatively impact their self-esteem, which has important implications for a host of health behaviors. Hussett-Richardson worked on various projects as a research assistant in the SASH Lab, including the Dreamer Girls Project, an HIV and drug use prevention study for Black Girls. She also co-led the Dreamer Girls Project Youth Advisory Board, which brings together Black girls in New Jersey and other parts of the country to discuss ways in which research can be used as an empowerment tool for Black girls.