Blog Health Equity

An enjoyable research experience

Written by Alayna Patrick, MS, PhD student at Saint Louis University and alumna of the Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

I must say that participating in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track, was one of the most engaging and rewarding experiences of my public health career. I learned a vast amount of information from the guest speakers, seminars, and site visits. I enjoyed writing reflection pieces and reading the perspectives of the other research program participants as well.

Dr. Eric Mumford, the Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, mentored me during my time in the program. Together, we created a research project that integrated my passion for food access, health, and St. Louis history. I explored the history of the food provision in the North St. Louis neighborhood known as the Ville from years 1878 to 2017. In the future, I will build on this preliminary research by investigating the history of food provision of all the current food deserts in St. Louis. I hope that learning the history of food provision in these neighborhoods serves as a catalyst for all people looking to create innovative ways of increasing food access.

I undoubtedly, enjoyed the research portion of the program, but one of my most memorable experiences would have to be the bus tour of St. Louis with Bob Hansman, BFA, Associate Professor in the in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement Faculty Fellow. Initially, I assumed that we were going to go on the usual predictable tour of St. Louis like,” here is the arch, here is the stadium, here is forest park, etc.,” but it wasn’t anything like that. It was a tour about the reality of St. Louis. We rode through North St. Louis city as Professor Hansman provided descriptions of past and present neighborhoods. We toured the Ville, and where the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood used to be. We even walked through the abandoned site of where the Pruitt -Igoe Housing Project once stood. He described the racial divide still plaguing St. Louis today and encouraged us to continue working towards achieving social justice for all.

“Life is a long journey, with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experiences to enjoy.” – Unknown

This research program was challenging at times, but it was an enjoyable experience as well. I learned so many skills, developed my research interests, and networked with other students and professionals. I truly believe that this program has made me a better researcher and it most certainly reinforced my passion for serving my community. After finishing the summer research program, I completed a nutrition and dietetic internship and accepted a position as the operations manager of the North City Food Hub. I look forward to moving onward in the field of public health as I begin the public health studies doctoral program at Saint Louis University in the fall.