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CCU students win national public health competition

April 13, 2016

Three Coastal Carolina University students won the national championship for public health academics at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) in Charlotte, N.C. They competed in the third annual undergraduate Case Study Competition against student public health teams from nine other universities.

"This award really strikes home that CCU's approach toward hands-on and experiential learning serves our students extremely well and allows them to excel in their chosen fields," said Michael Roberts, dean of the College of Science.

Garrison Carruth of Spartanburg, Kerry Dittmeier of Newbury, N.H., and Victoria Lambert of Aynor, all public health majors, were challenged to assess a current public health problem and develop a health initiative to impact the issue. The students were judged by a panel of public health academics and practitioners based on the competence of their program, the feasibility for implementing the initiative (including a funding structure) and the overall potential for community impact.

The case study for this year's competition involved a national outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in Idaho, one of 19 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinations on religious or philosophical grounds. The student teams were given two weeks to research the issue, prepare their case and present it without the use of technology in a 20-minute closed forum to the judges.

John F. Yannessa, associate professor and chair of CCU's Department of Health Sciences, said the award "is an indicator that the rigorous nature of our public health academic preparation can yield tangible dividends for our students."

Sherer Royce, associate professor of public health and faculty adviser, said the two weeks of preparing for the presentation was intense for the three students.

"These young professionals are wonderfully talented, we are proud of their achievements, and are excited about the national attention they have brought to our public health program."

This is the third consecutive year that CCU public health students have participated in the case study competition. The CCU team placed second in the 2015 competition.

Other universities that competed were the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Truman State University, Eastern Illinois University, Liberty University, Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, the University of Central Oklahoma and Colorado State University.