CNYMPH student project empowers Syracuse refugees

Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson took on a daunting task for her capstone project in the CNY Master of Public Health program – coordinating a photography project with eight refugees, only one of whom had ever used a camera.

Rozylnn Jakes-Johnson SUNY Upstate

Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson

Next month, those “New Americans” will show off their photos to the public during a reception at the Northside CYO in Syracuse. But this project is about much more than photography.

Rozlynn is following the PhotoVoice project model, designed to build skills and empower people in disadvantaged and marginalized populations and to influence policy makers to address the needs of those communities.

“Their perception matters. Their voice matters,” Rozlynn said of the people in her study. “Not just to me, but to the larger community.”

Rozlynn has taught English as a Second Language to adults in the Syracuse City School District since 2009. The participants in the PhotoVoice project are students in her classes. The eight in the photo project represent six different countries and native languages.

Most of them live on the North Side of Syracuse, where Rozlynn also works with the city’s refugees in two community gardens — places, she said, that are not so much about nutrition, but a means for New Americans to connect with each other and with the larger community.

The PhotoVoice project is an extension of the bonds created in the classroom, Rozlynn said. Her students, ranging from their 20s to their 50s, worked with each other on their photography. They spoke in English because they don’t know each other’s native languages.

In September, Rozlynn purchased point-and-shoot digital cameras online and met twice a week with the students. They discussed the project’s theme of social cohesion, which focused on community, connection and belonging — and Rozlynn gave a crash course in photography.

The students spent a week taking photos, with the idea of capturing representations of three elements – community, connection and belonging. The students were told not to photograph faces of any people, but to look for representative images.

SUNY Upstate

A photo taken by a participant in Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson's PhotoVoice project.

As an example of how an image can serve as a metaphor, Rozlynn showed them a photograph of a red scarf to represent dance, and then explained how the scarf represented dance. (Rozlynn competed in semi-professional ballroom dance competitions as a teenager.)

The students then had to choose five of their photos and assign each image to either Community, Connection or Belonging. Rozlynn then tape-recorded the students explaining each photo. She transcribed their responses, which will accompany the photos when they are on display.

“I’m humbled and grateful,” Rozlynn said. “I’m in a different capacity, almost like a role reversal of teacher and student. It’s wonderful to be part of a creative endeavor like this.”

Telisa Stewart, DrPH, Rozlynn’s mentor in the CNYMPH program, said Rozlynn’s project is a good example of community-based participatory research, a method of qualitative research that empowers the subjects and can give them something in return.

“New Americans are often secluded and isolated,” Dr. Stewart said. “They’ve often gone through extreme lifestyle changes in the U.S.”

Dr. Stewart said PhotoVoice projects are demanding, and Rozlynn has been up to the task.

“She has such passion – she goes way out of her way,” Dr. Stewart said. “Her personal energy for this population is incredible. PhotoVoice takes someone who will persevere. It’s so much work, and you have to let go of your control as a researcher. You don’t know what you’re going to get back.”

Rozlynn, whose findings will be analyzed qualitatively for her spring capstone project, said the rewards come when the students say things like, “When I’m with people, my heart feels open.”

The project has given the New Americans ways to connect, Rozlynn said. “It’s gratifying to know what I’m providing to them gives them an opportunity to shine. They’re so excited, and I’m so excited for them.”

Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson’s CNYMPH Capstone Project

PhotoVoice exhibit featuring photography by Syracuse refugees from Nepal, Ethiopia, Iraq, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Bhutan.

Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015

6 to 7:30 p.m.

Northside CYO, 527 N. Salina St., Syracuse

The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will feature music and refreshments.

 

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Twenty-six Upstate medical students elected to honor society

Twenty-six members of Upstate’s College of Medicine Class of 2015 have been elected as members of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

AOA, a professional medical organization founded in 1902, advocates for excellence in scholarship and the highest ideals of the medical profession.

The top 25 percent of a medical school class is eligible for nomination to the society, and up to 16 percent may be elected based on leadership, character, community service and professionalism, according to the AOA.

Upstate’s Alpha Omega Alpha members from the Class of 2015

Thomas Franzon

Thomas Franzon, president

David Bae, Matthew Basciotta, Madalene Boyle, Erica Brenner, Patrick Chambers;

Matthew Chiarello, Jeremy Di Bari, Sarah Evans, Thomas Franzon (president);

Ashley Grimshaw, Jamal Hajjari, Michael Hessenauer, Colm Kelleher;

Brian Ruhle

Brian Ruhle, vice president

Robert Kribs, Kamran Munawar, James Prezzano, Brian Ruhle (vice president), Matthew Siegenthaler, Michael Siegenthaler;

Brian Smerkers, Rachelle St. Onge, Zachary Telgheder, Ryan Van Nostrand, Corey Vasisko, Alyson Weiner, Justin Zelenka.

 

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MD/PhD student presents research at national conference

SUNY Upstate MD/PhD program

Scott Minchenberg, a student in Upstate's MD/PhD program, was among 18 students nationwide selected to give an oral presentation at the annual MD/PhD Student Conference in Colorado.

Upstate’s Scott Minchenberg was one of only 18 students selected to give an oral presentation at the 29th annual MD/PhD Student Conference in Keystone, Colo.

Scott is in the lab of Professor Paul Massa, PhD, researching the role of a protein in multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system.

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by the destruction of myelin, the insulating layer or sheath of proteins and fat around nerves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which affects signals to the brain and spinal cord.

SUNY Upstate MD/PhD prorgam

Upstate MD/PhD student Scott Minchenberg

The Massa Lab project could eventually lead to therapies for the disease. “We have the potential of better understanding the underlying mechanisms of MS,” Scott said.

At the conference in Colorado, Scott gave an oral presentation on his research and talked with MD/PhD students from all over the country. He also met University of Washington professor Mary-Claire King, PhD, the researcher who discovered the BRCA gene linked to some breast cancers.

Scott graduated from Hofstra University on his native Long Island in 2011 and came to Upstate that fall. Like other MD/PhD students, he completed the first two years of the medical school curriculum before entering the three-year PhD phase of the program.

“After I got here, I was amazed by the camaraderie among the students, just how close-knit and helpful everyone is,” Scott said.

A highlight of the MD/PhD program, Scott said, is the one-on-one attention from Principal Investigators. “They’re approachable, and are always available to offer valuable guidance,” he said. “The MD/PhD program is unique. It’s such a small group, and it definitely has a family feel.”

As an undergraduate at Hofstra, Scott was a firefighter and EMT, but he has since allowed his EMT certification to lapse to concentrate on medical school. Away from the lab and the classroom, he’s “embracing” the Upstate New York life – skiing, hiking and other outdoor winter activities.

Scott said his career plan is undecided, but most likely will lead him to academic medicine somewhere in the Tri-State area.

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Physical Therapy students give a lift to Samaritan Center

SUNY Upstate Physical Therapy Samaritan Center

Students in Upstate's Doctor of Physical Therapy program host a food drive Nov. 3-21 to benefit the Samaritan Center.

Last year’s inaugural holiday food drive by students in Upstate’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program was such a success, they’re doing it again.

The 2013 effort brought in more than 400 pounds of food and $400 in gift cards, and students want to do better in 2014. The beneficiary this year is the Samaritan Center, a downtown Syracuse not-for-profit that feeds hundreds of people every day in the basement of a church.

“A few of the first-year students said they’ve volunteered there, so that’s how it came about,” said organizer Lauren Shirley, a second-year DPT student.

Collection boxes will be placed on campus Monday, and the drive continues through Nov. 21. Non-perishable food items (but please check the expiration dates) and other goods are welcomed. See the poster below for a list of specific items needed.

Drop boxes will be in the Health Sciences Library in Weiskotten Hall; Geneva Tower; Silverman Hall; the “bridge” linking Upstate University Hospital with the east parking garage, and the Pathology department on the sixth floor of the hospital.

SUNY DPT food drive

 

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