Leah Maschino has always been interested in helping people. She is following her passion by working with the Flint Community to overcome health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
December 10, 2021
From Charleston, South Carolina to Davison, Michigan, Leah Maschino, CHM MPH ‘17, has always been interested in helping people. She works for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Flint campus in the Division of Public Health. She is a public health researcher working on Dr. Todd Lucas' SeroNet research study team to increase uptake and explore the barriers to COVID-19 antibody testing and vaccinations in Flint, Michigan. In addition, she is assisting Dr. Lucas with his efforts to expand and increase screening rates for colorectal cancer by promoting an alternative screening option that can be completed at home.
Why did you pursue a career in public health?
A: I have always been interested in helping people. I found the concept of public health--achieving optimal health and wellness for all populations-- to be fascinating and I knew I wanted to be a part of this work in some way. I am also interested in health promotion, nutrition, maternal and child health, mental and physical health, and substance misuse prevention--all of which are related to public health. I love that public health is so inclusive of many topics yet all working towards similar goals.
How do you work to overcome health disparities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Our team has worked with community partners to develop various health communication tools to better understand which health communication tools are most effective in Flint. One of these tools consists of an animated informational video that discusses the potential value of antibody testing for COVID-19. The informational videos are supplemented with surveys to better understand potential barriers to COVID-19 antibody testing and vaccination as well as potential components of vaccine hesitancy among Flint residents.
Why does it matter?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in some way, but it has disproportionallyaffected minority populations across the country. African Americans makeup 14% of Michigan’s population but account for more than 33 percent of the state’s coronavirus cases and 40 percent of its deaths. Overcoming challenges of medical mistrust and ensuring equity in health education and access to COVID-19 antibody testing and vaccination is critical to reducing racial injustices that have been increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provide a summary of your job description.
A: I am a Project Administrator on Todd Lucas’ SeroNetresearch study team. This project is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet) for COVID-19. Over the course of 5 years, this study aims to develop effective health communication tools for the Flint Community and overcome challenges of medical mistrust and racial injustices by reducingbarriersto COVID-19antibody testing. My role consists of working with community partners and our research team to develop surveys and project protocols, collect, manage, and analyze project data, implementCOVID-19 antibody testing with study participants, and evaluate our efforts and processes throughout the project.
Why did you choose MSU to pursue your Master of Public Health?
A: I started the MSU Master of Public Health Program when I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, so I liked that the program was 100% online. I knew I would be moving back home to Michigan at some point during my time in the program, so the fact that it was solely online helped guide my decision to go through MSU. I am also a fan of the Michigan State Spartans and think MSU is a wonderful institution. I’m proud to be a Spartan Alumna, Go Green!
If you were to share a best practice with current MPH students, what would you want them to know?
A: My best advice to current MPH students would be to get involved and gain as much public health experience as possible, even at the beginning of the program. There are so many directions one can go in public health. Take advantage of the opportunities in your area by joining a local coalition. Reach out to your professors, learn about their work in public health, and explore how they may be able to help you get involved.
What accomplishment makes you proud?
A: In addition to achieving a master's degree in Public Health from Michigan State University, I have the opportunity to apply what I've learned to real-world settings in need of positive change. MSU CHM's Division of Public Health is embedded in the Flint community and is working to make a difference in Flint. I am proud to be a part of this work and be able to use the skills and knowledge I learned in the MPH program to make a difference in people's lives.
Anything else you would like to add?
A: If you are interested in pursuing public health, seek out local coalitions in your area and get involved. I gained a lot of experience by working with a local coalition and becoming more involved with the community. Local organizations and health departments may also be good places to reach out to and learn about volunteer or job opportunities! I believe that the form of experience and involvement is vital in public health.
Leah Maschino, CHM MPH ‘17
Project Administrator, MSU SeroNet Study
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Division of Public Health