Patricia Cassano, director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences, speaks at the symposium.

Students present projects in global and public health

More than 100 students presented their work on a wide array of projects aimed at improving access to public health everywhere from Tompkins County to Tanzania, as part of the 2021 Global and Public Health Experiential Learning Symposium, held Nov. 12 in Cornell’s Physical Sciences Building.

The annual symposium is hosted by the Global Health Program in the Division of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Ecology and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and features the work of undergraduate students and students in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Experiential learning, or the application of classroom lessons to real-world projects, is a requirement for the global and public health sciences majors and global health minors, and students say this is a transformative part of their education.

“It changed my career path more than I was thinking it would,” said Hayden Garniewicz ’21, a senior majoring in sociology with a minor in global health.


A student answers questions at the symposium.

Garniewicz’s research focused on casework for clients of mental health clinics in Union Settlement, a nonprofit association that provides support to communities in East Harlem. Through her summer project, Garniewicz worked with clients to find them employment and housing. She learned that she enjoyed the personal connections she made with her clients through casework and hopes to become a clinical social worker or a therapist for similar communities in the future.

Some of the projects presented were the culmination of summer 2021 Global Health Programs, which partnered students with faculty doing research in India, Zambia and Tanzania. Renee Girbau ’23 and Catherine Wambura ’22 gave a presentation about their collaboration with the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research on creating stricter and standardized nutrition labeling in Zambia.

Partnering with local experts was key, Wambura said, noting she learned the most from being involved with local nutritionists when doing global health work.

Other student initiatives focused on making a public health impact closer to home. Xavier Tchoujan, an MPH student, co-authored “Social Determinant of Health Screening and Referral System,” a partnership with Cayuga Health Partners and Reach Medical that aims to pilot a social determinant of health screening tool during patient visits.

Tchoujan’s team worked to create a six-question screening system to give to patients, as well as implementation processes and post-appointment surveys for both patients and practitioners. The program revealed important discrepancies in the frequency of screening, he said, and the project team hopes to take steps to ameliorate these discrepancies.

The symposium also featured the inaugural Health Humanities Contest, in which students submitted artwork, photography and poetry under the theme of “Equity and Justice in Global and Public Health.” It aimed to address and explore intersections between the arts, humanities and global and public health equity through students’ creative perspectives. Winning submissions will be displayed on the monitors in the Martha Van Rensselaer Commons.

Ayesha Chari ‘24 is a student media associate in the College of Human Ecology.