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Arnold School of Public Health

Arnold School’s Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program selects inaugural Maternal and Child Health Graduate Scholars

December 14, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

Just months after the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded $450K to epidemiology professor Jihong Liu to advance curriculum and training opportunities in maternal and child health, the program’s first major component is up and running: a merit-based scholarship program. As part of the Arnold School’s Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program, these scholarships provide competitive research funding to promising students to pursue research in areas related to the health and well-being of mothers, children, and adolescents. This year’s Graduate Scholars in Maternal and Child Health Research are doctoral students Ellie Cooper (Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD), Amanda Elmore (Epidemiology) and Mohammad Masudur Rahman (Health Promotion, Education and Behavior (HPEB).

“This new MCH Graduate Scholarship program is designed to offer valuable grant-writing experience while providing critical funds to support high-quality student-led research and scholarly projects,” says Liu, who notes that students will have an opportunity to submit proposals in 2021 and credits epidemiology graduate director Linda Hazlett and 14 other faculty members as essential to the review and selection process. “We hope to help our graduate scholars build the skills and background necessary to make them more competitive in their future careers.”

Ellie Cooper

Cooper discovered her passion for working with children when she learned more about children with hearing loss as a master’s student at Fontbonne University. Currently in the second year of her doctoral program, Cooper works closely with COMD associate professor Krystal Werfel in the Written Language Lab, where they study literacy skills for children with hearing loss. She is also a Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow, a Graduate Civic Scholar, and a member of 2020 Early Childhood Leadership Initiative Cohort of the Division of Early Childhood/Council for Exceptional Children.

As a Maternal and Child Health Scholar, Cooper will examine the impact of hearing loss diagnosis on maternal health literacy and well-being. Earlier studies have demonstrated that caregivers of children with disabilities report higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety, which can, in turn, have a negative impact on maternal sensitivity to a child’s linguistics needs and parent-child interactions. Cooper’s project seeks to determine maternal perspective and health literacy to optimize future outcomes for mothers and their children.

“Ellie has a passion for supporting maternal and child health and has combined that clinical expertise and past research experience into her current grant proposal,” says Werfel. “Her long-term goal is to develop and validate an evidence-based caregiver training program that builds on the findings of her proposed project.”

Amanda Elmore

A 2014 graduate of medical lab sciences at the University of Kentucky, Elmore next earned a Master of Public Health at Florida State University. Now in year three of her doctoral program, she has published four peer-reviewed papers (three as first author). Elmore is also a member of UofSC’s Behavioral Biomedical  Interface Program – a National Institutes of Health-funded predoctoral fellowship that offers interdisciplinary training in epidemiology, exercise science and psychology to better prepare the next generation of behavioral scientists – and secretary-treasurer for the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.  

For her project, Elmore will conduct a longitudinal study of mother and infant dyads to determine the long-term effects of opioid dependency on maternal and child health outcomes. While previous research has examined the immediate risks to maternal and infant health, Elmore’s work will investigate how children with in-utero opioid exposure and mothers with opioid use disorder are impacted up to 20 years later.

“Amanda will examine the association between maternal opioid use disorder and hospital readmission over time for both the mother and the infant to assess long-term morbidity outcomes,” says Nansi Boghossian, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “This study will provide very important contributions to the field of maternal and child health and is highly relevant to care providers and policy makers.”

Mohammad Masudur Rahman

A native of Bangladesh, Rahman has earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, a diploma and master’s in health economics and another master’s in population sciences from Dhaka Medical College and the University of Dhaka and is committed to improving health in the South Asia region. He is a fourth-year doctoral student with 13 peer-reviewed publications and is a Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow. For the past year, Rahman has worked as a process evaluation intern for Helen Keller International.

With support from his employer, Rahman is already working with HPEB professor Edward Frongillo to conduct a randomized control trial using text messaging to better understand the reach and information sharing between household members and with their social networks in Nepal. For his Maternal and Child Health Scholar project, Rahman will use both quantitative and qualitative data from this larger study to explore the information sharing mechanism between household members (including mothers) and their social networks.  

“Mohammad’s study will contribute valuable information about the role of social networks in disseminating information and formation of social norms in a context in which media – in this case text messaging – is received by people living in rural communities,” Frongillo says. “His project has potential to influence policy and programming in Nepal and other low- and middle-income countries.”


Jihong Liu wins grant to advance Arnold School training and curriculum in maternal and child health

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