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Biology and Community Health Senior Research Symposium

Biology and Community Health Senior Research Symposium

During this fall semester the Biology and the Community Health Programs combined their capstone courses into one. This allowed the students to experience a more broad spectrum of topics. In this Senior Seminar, each student selects a research project that represents a challenge to the environment, medicine, science, health or healthcare. Students are encouraged to read widely to select their topic. Through their independent reading and research, students formulate a thesis statement and an outline of the paper. Students must show in their research and writing that the knowledge and skills derived from biology classes and other PMC classes have given them the support to design and accomplish the research project. Students are expected to read widely and deeply to create a healthy bibliography. Each student prepares a written report of 20-22 pages. This is a progressive mentored research report: interim themes and deadlines guide the students. Students also prepare an oral presentation for the mini Research Symposium at semester’s end.

This year’s Senior Seminar Research Symposium was held in the President’s Dining Room. Eight Biology and Community Health seniors presented their research papers in four categories:

Infectious Diseases as Global Challenges

Pressing Issues Impacted by Political and Social Climate

Interplay of Social Values and Cultural Norms with Health

Diseases that Present a Challenge to Modern Medicine

Childhood Obesity

Marie Augustin

Childhood Obesity (CO) is a serious condition in the United States; the prevalence of obesity in children has more than tripled from 1972-2011. The prevalence from ages of 2-5 has increased from 4.8 % in 1974 to 12.1 % in 2010. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents for the past decade. CO increases the risk of many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, asthma, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, sleep apnea, and depression. Many risk factors are associated with childhood obesity; these are education, race and gender, genetics, social factors, smoking, cesarean birth, economic issues and unhealthy eating. There are many consequences of CO which can be life threatening, but many treatment options are available. Several studies have been shown that obese children are more likely to be obese as adolescents. But it is not clear whether obesity carries a greater risk of adolescent morbidity and mortality. This paper will consider the adverse effects, factors and consequences of obesity in children, as well as future predictions.

Type 2 Diabetes as a Global Problem

Nathalia Tejada

Type II diabetes (T2D) is characterized by high blood sugar, the resistance to insulin and eventually the lack of insulin secretion. This results in hyperglycemia. This disease requires continued medical care, patient education and a change in lifestyle. The purpose of this research paper is to present the different risk factors that lead to the development of T2D, diagnostic, and treatment protocols and to discuss how this disease has become a pandemic. There are two types of diabetes; Type I diabetes and T2D. Type I diabetes is known as insulin-dependent diabetes. T2D is characterized by a “fasting high blood glucose” concentration (Corkey 2013). This means that cells are always hungry even in the presence of high blood glucose. T2D is a global pandemic. This pandemic is increasing daily. T2D has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. This rise is occurring in adults aged 18 years and older (WHO 2016). One of the reasons for the development of T2D is genetic. Different people can develop genetic mutations that increase their risk of developing T2D. While genetics play a role in the development of this disease, the social factors also play a role. These social factors are the lifestyle, economic barriers and lack of physical activity. In T2D patients stress and depression also play a significant role; all of these can influence the development and management of T2D. The solution for this pandemic lies in the hands of the population and the government. We need to change our lifestyles and have access to healthier food and better health care.

Cardiovascular Disease

Dora Eugene

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a rising health challenge for both men and women, as it is the number one killer in the United States, and in the world. By the year 2030 (in 14 years), the mortality toll is expected to rise from approximately 610,000 to 811,765 a year and the health care costs, from $195.6 billion to approximately $818 billion a year in the United States. 610,000 deaths a year might not seem too alarming, but CVD is followed closely by cancer as the number two killer in the United States with roughly 595,690 deaths a year. There are currently a number of treatments available for people affected by CVD, but the socio-economic factors associated with CVD are the constant fuel that drive the complexity of the disease forward and prevent access to these treatments. The lack of preventative measures, such as a strong advocacy for regular doctor’s visits, a healthier diet, an active lifestyle, and a drastic cut in smoking, is a strong reflection on the grim prediction of CVD. In order for the United States to have a better control of the morbidity of CVD, we must be willing to pour as many resources into the prevention of CVD as we do its treatment.

Human Papilloma Virus in the United States

Monserrat Jifkins

Human papillomavirus is considered to be the second most common infection among women worldwide. Epidemiological studies have shown that HPV is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. It is estimated that about a half or more of the population that is sexually active will contract HPV at some point in their lives. More than 200 types of human papillomaviruses have been identified from which 40 are sexually transmitted. HPV may cause health complications and even life-threatening consequences if not detected on time. No cure for HPV infection has been yet identified. However, there are 3 different vaccines that are highly effective in preventing HPV. If so, why do HPV infections keep rising in the US? This research paper will demonstrate how HPV has become a challenge to health in the United States. It will give a brief understanding of the structure of the virus and its infection cycle, epidemiologic mechanisms, risk factors as well as the health outcomes caused by HPV. This paper will discuss diagnostic techniques and treatments currently used to control HPV infections. Social factors play a significant role in HPV prevalence and underuse of the vaccines.

Obstetric Fistula

Eghosa Iyekekpolor

It is time for a change; no more suffering in silence.
Obstetric Fistula (OF) is a reproductive health condition for females across sub-Saharan African and Asia. This refers to an abnormal opening between the vagina and the bladder or rectum, leading to continuous urinary or fecal incontinence. There is an estimated number of 2 million women living with OF in undeveloped countries; this number is an underestimated because there are not enough reports about this condition. Not all women who live in rural areas have been discovered. OF is a condition that affects about 50,000 and 100,000 women each year. OF is caused by a very long or obstructed labor when women do not have access to quality emergency obstetric care services. An early child marriage and pregnancy can cause it, because of the underdeveloped female anatomy in young girls. OF is of two types; rectovaginal fistula which is an opening in the vagina, which connects to the rectum or it can be vesicovaginal fistula is a passageway which abnormally generates from the urinary bladder to the vagina. Incidence and prevalence measures evidence to sustain interest in funding for preventions and treatment. Early child marriage has dire life-long implications. It destroys a girl’s ability to realize the broad range of human rights. Child marriage violates the rights to education, health, equality, and non-discrimination. Everyone has to live free from violence and discrimination. OF is a sexual health disease of an assault on human rights of a woman. It needs proper funds from the government for the development of healthcare facilities, and the government should be able to provide changes in cultural beliefs. It is high time for culture to accept to treat all sexes equally because a female child is a child and not a bride.


Bountouraby Soumah

Examination of Egyptian mummies has led to the discovery by paleopathologists of Osteoporosis dating back as far as 2,000 BC. (Stride et al 2013; Masr 2016) Osteoporosis is known to be a condition that leads to bone loss. It is the most common bone disease. The condition affects roughly 10 million Americans, where 80% are women who have reached menopause. (Kolata 2016) Because osteoporosis is a silent disease, it often goes unnoticed in individuals until a fall or fracture occurs. This indirectly affects about 30 million Americans. (Carson-DeWitt 2014) The disease is categorized as primary, secondary, senile, and iatrogenic. These types of osteoporosis will be defined in detail throughout this paper. Similar to any other disease, risk factors are involved such as estrogen deficiency, family history of osteoporosis, alcohol consumption, low body weight, and inadequate calcium intake. (Starkebaum et al 2015) Diagnosis of the condition does lead to lifestyle barriers such as difficulty with daily physical tasks. Bone remodeling is an important lifelong natural process in our bodies that involves destroying old bone and forming new bone. In this disease, bone remodeling is influenced when bone forming cannot keep up with bone destruction. The condition does have several treatment options for patients such as hormonal therapies and common drugs (bisphosphonates) to help minimize bone loss and enhance bone strength. Osteoporosis reveals socio-economic issues in communities, as many individuals do not have the financial means for the cost of this disease, as well as the necessary education or health care resources to prevent, manage, or treat the disease.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Elga Rodrigues

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms produced using genetic engineering method. Genetic Engineering (GE) a biotechnology technique created in the 1970s to substitute the traditional agricultural breeding method for crops (“Consumer Info,” 2015). GE allows farmers to create genetic alteration or enhance traits quicker than the conventional breeding method. GMO is the transfer of genes between species of different kingdon. These genes can come from bacteria, fungi or even animals. Currently, GE crops on the market include corn, soybeans, potatoes, apples, cotton, squash, canola, papaya, rapeseed and rice. (“Genetically Modified Organisms,” 2011; Ackerman, 2002). Depending on the gene modification of the organism in study, GMO can be resistant to diseases, drought, or modified to enhance a desirable trait. For instance, scientists can insert a rat gene into lettuce to make a plant that produces vitamin C or insert a gene from the cecropia moth into apple plants, to offer it protection from the fire blight bacteria. (Ackerman, 2002). However, all these genetic advances have also produced many controversial issues. Supporters of GMO claim that they are the solution to food insecurity and the doorway to future diseases treatment. Critics of GMOs believe they are harmful to our health, environment and are being approved by the government without proper safety studies. It has been estimated that above of 75% of processed foods on supermarket contain genetically engineered ingredients. Critics of GMO believe this is one of the reasons GMO needs a label, and they have the right to know what is in their food. Opponents have raised concerns regarding safety and health and environment impacts; lawsuits have been brought to settle labeling disputes. All in all, there are many disagreements between American consumers and the food industry. These genetic modifications have produced controversies regarding the safety, health, environment impact as well as labeling issues this paper will discuss these matters.

Population Displacement

Yaye Cherif

A Hidden Global Challenge that Needs the World’s Attention
Currently, over 65.3 million people are displaced worldwide (UNHCR 2015). According to the United Nation Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, a Displaced Person is one who has been forced to leave his or her home country due to war, persecution or natural disaster (UNESCO 2016). Population migration has always been part of our evolution. However, in the past 20 years, the number of displaced people around the world has been growing at exceptionally high rates, which has eventually led to the classification of this phenomenon as a global challenge. This paper deals with three main aspects of displacement: The causes of displacement; the consequences of displacement; and proposed comprehensive solutions to resolving this global problem. Multitudes of factors contribute to population displacement at different levels, including natural disaster and political persecution. Nonetheless, war and conflicts account for 54% of the total displacement and 40% of those refugees originate from only 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Population displacement has great consequences, both to the people displaced, and to the host communities. Cultural loss, health care crises and lack of access to education are the three major consequences of displacement elaborated upon in this paper. Studies have shown that this global problem can be resolved by: voluntary repatriation, which assist refugees who are willing to return to their countries of origin; local integration, which advocates for helping refugees find permanent homes in their countries of refuge; and resettlement, which is an approach to help refugees find permanent residence in a third party country. Current studies predict that by 2050, every 1 in 45 people will be a displaced person; and 200 million of those displaced will be caused by climate change. Therefore, as global citizens, will we take a stand and address this issue of displacement while we can, or will we ignore it now and suffer the consequences in the foreseeable future?

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