Health sciences graduate ready to make a difference in public health

Denise Dean has big plans, and her UMKC research experience and bachelor of health sciences degree are helping her realize them.

“My ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations and work towards health equity on a global and national scale,” said Dean, who graduated in May with a minor in public health as well. She is working on two public health grants in Kansas City through calendar 2021. “That’s something I’m really passionate about.”

To pursue her dream job, Dean will need a master’s degree in public health and, eventually, a doctorate in a health field. With all of her undergraduate research experience and work in public health, Dean is confident that she will be accepted at one of her preferred graduate programs for 2022.

“I had a lot of opportunities to work in the field when I graduated,” she said, “but I’m eager to start work on my master’s.”

Dean currently is a public health research assistant at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, a post she held for several semesters while getting her BHS degree. And she is the youth sector research coordinator for Our Healthy Kansas City Eastside, which has partnered with youth groups, neighborhood associations, churches and businesses to provide COVID-19 vaccinations and preventive health screenings.

“I’m working with about 15 youth groups in underserved areas,” she said, training them to become Community Health Liaisons in order to share accurate health information. She also works with Move More, Get More, an after-school initiative that increases access to nutrition and sports in three Kansas City middle schools.

While earning her BHS degree, Dean also studied global health inequities and challenges, COVID-19, HIV and other public health issues. In a course on the pandemic, for example, one of the first in the country, Dean became a certified contact tracer and learned much about medical equipment supply chains and emergency response systems.

Her research assistantship allowed her to work with Joey Lightner, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Amanda Grimes, Ph.D., M.C.H.E.S., both assistant professors. Dean’s work in their public health programs resulted in her being the lead author on one peer-reviewed research article and a contributor on another, and reviewer for the 2021 National Reproductive Conference. She also got to help Lightner, a member of the city’s health board, draw up the city’s Community Health Improvement Plan, which put her in touch with experts in many areas of public health.