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Graduate School

Graduate Student Wins Leadership Award from Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina

Ph.D. in Health, Promotion, Education, and Behavior candidate Jennifer Mandelbaum was among only three awardees that the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina recognized at the organization’s third Annual Live Healthy SC Meeting. While two programs (i.e., Road to Better Health, SC Birth Outcomes Initiative) were honored for their contributions to advance the state’s overall health status and innovate best practices for population health, Mandelbaum was the only individual to receive an award.

Already the winner of the Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Award, Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership, Emily Thompson Award in Women’s and Gender Studies, and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, Mandelbaum’s most recent distinction, the Dr. Rick Foster Leadership Award, is a reflection of her work in diabetes/heart disease management and childhood obesity in South Carolina. “Jennifer is advancing grant opportunities to address the state’s racial and socioeconomic disparities by expanding care into medically underserved areas,” Kyle Peterson wrote in an announcement on the Alliance’s website. “She is also working with the University of South Carolina’s SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality to study how we can improve the state’s rate of childhood obesity.”

Much of this work is tied to Mandelbaum’s position at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, where she collaborates closely with other staff members such as HPEB alumni Kristian Myers and Tramaine McMullen. As a program evaluator, Mandelbaum works on two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in diabetes and heart disease. 

Mandelbaum led the analysis and summarization of key findings from a statewide survey of more than 70 rural health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers. “We are also engaging stakeholders such as the SC Office of Rural Health and the SC Primary Health Care Association to translate evidence-based research into practice and with the Diabetes Advisory Council of SC to promote evidence-based diabetes prevention and management interventions,” she says.

With this information, Mandelbaum and her team are now better equipped to provide support (e.g., technical assistance) for chronic disease management programs, telehealth, and modifications to electronic health records. They are also committed to sharing these findings and lessons learned to broader audiences (e.g., key stakeholders, government health professionals, academic researchers). 

In addition to her role at DHEC, Mandelbaum has held numerous research and leadership positions at UofSC (e.g., Presidential Fellow (2016-2020), Graduate Civic Scholar, Delta Omega Fellow (2019-2020), Rhude M. Patterson Graduate Trustee Fellow, Junior Scholar (2017-2018; 2019-2020), co-president of UofSC’s chapter of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, president/vice president of the UofSC Graduate Student Association). Her childhood obesity research as a Junior Scholar with the Center for Healthcare Quality revealed that nutrition counseling is rarely documented at pediatric wellness visits in South Carolina, with sociodemographic and geographic differences in nutrition counseling possibly exacerbating existing disparities in childhood obesity. Working with core faculty member Sayward Harrison, Mandelbaum is expanding this project by meeting with focus groups to evaluate pediatricians’ knowledge/perceptions of childhood obesity prevention/treatment and inform recommendations for increasing nutrition and physical activity counseling within the state.

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