UCO public health team wins regionals

A team of students from the UCO Public Health program school placed first in an inaugural competition where they used a case study to create a plan to address an assigned problem. 

According to Sunshine Cowan, a UCO professor in the department of Kinesiology and Health studies where she co-coordinates the public health program, said,a “This inaugural regional competition was for undergraduate teams only, and we only had one team enter.” 

The team consisted of Avery Geist, Michelle Romero and Moriah Contino, who are all seniors in the public health program. 

Faculty from the public health program helped to determine who would be on the team. 

“This team was unanimously picked by the faculty,” Cowan, assistant dean of the UCO Jackson College of Graduate Studies,said. The competition is not part of a class at the university.

The team will also have a chance to compete in the National Case Study Competition in Health Education each February. This is the first year that there has been a regional competition for the students. The competition took place exclusively on Zoom starting on Oct. 27. Last year, the team from UCO won the national competition.

“The team and I were given the prompt for our presentation two weeks before the competition, and there are very strict rules about not receiving any help from our professors or from other public health professionals in the field,” Geist said.

After the prep time, the team was required to present their case to a panel of judges. 

“For this competition, they were provided with data and facts about school violence in New Mexico,” Cowan said. “They had to create a public health plan to address it and be able to show how they would communicate their plan to a broader population.” 

By making a public health plan, the team was forced to show what they had learned through their classes at UCO that they will one day apply professionally. 

“This competition uses principles, theories, and frameworks that are taught and practiced in public health,” Cowan said.

“The most rewarding part of this win is knowing that students received no outside assistance. They won on their own plan and merit, and that means a great deal to our program,” Cowan stated.

The team celebrated shortly after they found out that they won on a separate Zoom call with the professors and the team. The students received a trophy along with discounted registration for the national competition on Feb. 25-26.

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