Monday, February 6, 2017

Capstone 2016 – Brittany Lee

Presented December 15, 2016, Brittany Lee’s Capstone presented an innovative, women’s-based health initiative called Monique’s Gift. With the aim of decreasing the number of HIV/AIDS infections among women, the mobile concept raises awareness of the disease, provides testing and offers support. By initially operating only in the Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods of Chicago, the intervention will reach a higher number of the intended target—African American women.

Why focus on African American women? Brittany’s research uncovered some alarming statistics. African American women are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although African American women equal just 12% of the total U.S. population of women, they account for 62% of all new HIV diagnosis. Among African American women, 10.5% of HIV transmissions were the result of sharing needles for injection drugs. Monique’s Gift would directly address many of the unique socioeconomic and behavior factors the women of this target group face that are not well-addressed by other programs.

Monique’s Gift puts greater emphasis on analyzing the social conditions that effect African American women’s lives. A program like this could prove effective in these Chicago neighborhoods and scale to produce substantial benefits in other at-risk, primarily African American, communities.

Learn more about Brittany’s Capstone experience.  

Why did you choose to pursue an MPH? 

After earning my Bachelor’s Degree in justice studies from Northeastern Illinois University, I continued my education at DePaul University. While pursuing my Juris Doctorate, with a certificate in International Law, I realized that I didn’t want to practice law in the traditional sense and be a courtroom attorney. I took a health law class and the policy aspect of it really interested me. Some additional field work led me to look at MPH programs. I decided to pursue the policy and management track. I look forward to making an impact with my background in law and justice studies in combination with my new public health knowledge.

What led you to your topic?  

I decide to focus on African American women and HIV because I feel these together are not discussed often enough. Public awareness of HIV in America is primarily focused on men who have sex with men. If race is brought into the conversation, the focus is generally about black men who have sex with men. However, African American women are being infected at alarming rates. This fact deserves focus and resources to address why. Bringing the conversation and testing capabilities to at risk communities—rather than waiting for individuals to seek information or testing for some reason—could influence real change in the transmission rate.

Why was the content or theme important to you?

As an African American woman, this topic was important and personal. It was a process of reflection, research and discovery. I wanted to understand why women with the same racial background as me were being infected with HIV at such an alarming and disproportionate rate. What was different between me and them? What about their lives and community could make them more prone to contracting HIV? This project helped me—as I hope it does others—become more aware that access to quality health education and healthcare can have a grave impact on large groups of people, particularly minorities.

Where are you headed with your career?  

I just started working with Presence Health as a Quality Improvement Specialist. I’m really enjoying the position because I feel it is really important that doctors are held to a standard that achieves the best patient care. I love that I get to write policy and be involved in program development for Presence Medical Group. I hope to continue to grow in this job and with the company over time. 

A student’s Capstone project is a professional presentation, which demonstrates his/her ability to apply the program learning to a specific public health topic. Selected by the student, the project reflects a culmination of the course curriculum, field experience and independent study. This experience helps students explore their academic passions while preparing them for a competitive job market.

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