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Two recent Master of Public Health (MPH) graduates, Ines Roy and Abby Burton, paved the way for a new partnership last semester between the University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH), Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky (PCCEK), and Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) KY.

“Partnership building is one of the most important foundations of our program and one of my favorites,” said Janie Cambron, CPH Associate Dean for Practice and Workforce Development. “I love to see students get excited to collaborate with community partners and to be integrated into their work. We were able to match these students with their interest, while providing a foundation for building relationships with Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky and SOAR, both vital organizations in our state.”

Roy and Burton worked with PCCEK for their CPH 609 Public Health Practicum Course, which is required for all MPH students. Students are required to complete 200 hours of an approved, planned, and supervised practicum experience. The MPH practicum allows public health students to obtain professional work experience while applying selected MPH competencies in a real-world setting.

For her practicum, Roy focused on the diabetic patient experience. She developed a patient satisfaction survey and analyzed data related to patient outcomes, education, and medication compliance.

Roy said having this practical experience working with PCCEK and the Region IV Public Health Training Center (IVPHTC) has been a privilege.

“Hands-on experience is valuable, and this is undoubtedly the case with the collaboration of this team, the communities they serve, and the overall project,” she said. “It reinforced my classroom knowledge, helped me gain real-world experience in a supportive environment, and strengthened my skills related to data collection, analysis, and communication. To see my effort helping programs essential to improving diabetes health outcomes was truly rewarding.”

Burton focused on trend analysis data related to PCCEK services over the last several years. She said she and Roy were fortunate to be working with such a community-oriented organization as PCCEK and its Diabetes Care Center.

“It’s been great to implement ‘hard skills’ from the classroom in real-world settings—with collaboration among this team and other PCCEK staff,” Burton said. “Also, this project has given us a unique opportunity to see the intersection of public health and clinical medicine. We appreciate the support and responsiveness from PCCEK leadership, and hope to contribute to the continuation of this program’s improvements to diabetes health outcomes in eastern Kentucky.”

This opportunity was also part of a larger initiative with the Region IV Public Health Training Center (PHTC), according to Cambron.

In addition to working with PCCEK, Burton and Roy had the opportunity to be part of the Pathways to Practice Scholars Program through the Region IV Public Health Training Center. The program provides an opportunity for current public health students to gain practical experience working with seasoned public health practitioners (mentors) serving or working on behalf of underserved communities or populations.

Cambron said a limited number of awarded student scholars are placed each year in organizations in the Region IV Public Health Training Center’s eight states, which are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Students not only receive a stipend but are part of an elite cohort of students gaining professional development, networking, and practice experience.

CPH Board of Advisors member Colby Hall said the project was a perfect example of the University of Kentucky living out its land-grant mission.

“As a member of the UK College of Public Health Board of Advisors, I was especially pleased to see UK investing resources into solving public health disparities in Eastern Kentucky,” said Hall. “Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky is a visionary amongst healthcare providers in the region, and Eastern Kentucky is lucky to have them. This was a perfect collaboration and will help Primary Care Centers optimize its strategies to combat type II diabetes."

Barry Martin, the Chief Executive Officer of PCCEK, said the efforts of the students, CPH, and SOAR are appreciated.

“We are very fortunate to have partners such as the University of Kentucky and SOAR to assist us in our efforts to curb the effects of chronic diseases such as diabetes,” said Martin, who is a College of Public Health Master of Health Administration alum. “The work that the UK College of Public Health Master of Public Health students Ines Roy and Abby Burton completed will assist us in assessing the services being provided to our diabetic population. We will use this assessment to improve the way we provide care to our patients. I too was one of these students years ago and personally know how much of an impact an experience like this can have on everyone involved.”

The MPH Practicum course helps to prepare students for public health practice opportunities, employment, future internships, and general engagement with those in the workforce. Cambron noted the course is relevant to gain experience in a public health setting and to build capacity for students in our public health programs.

Ines Roy is now pursuing her biostatistics certificate at the University of Kentucky, College of Public Health. “It was through my practicum experience where I learned that I wanted more experience with data and now have the opportunity to learn and grow in this area,” Roy said.

Abby Burton is now entering the workforce and will be employed by the University of Kentucky. “I am excited to join the University of Kentucky now as an employee within substance use

prevention, with the opportunity to give back to the organization that gave me so much,“ says Burton.

For organizations and businesses with an interest in serving as a practicum site for CPH students or future work with the CPH Workforce Development Office, email