Nursing students present research at International Cancer Symposium

This summer, five undergraduate College of Nursing students had the opportunity to present oral and poster presentations at the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC) Biennial Research Symposium sponsored by MD Andersen and held at the University of Texas in Houston. The symposium was celebrating its 25th anniversary- launched to bring attention to the cancer disparities minorities and medically underserved face.

Eric Buhler, Toyin Olukotun, Keighla Mueller, Florine Ndaku and Rebecca Robinson have been students outsideactively involved with Professor Sandra Millon-Underwood’s breast cancer research and community projects. They all received scholarships to attend and present at the symposium.

Florine Ndaku said, “This conference was full of individuals who were the best of the best in their respective fields. Since it was geared towards students, these experts were very accessible and available to encourage, educate and equip us with the tools to succeed in graduate school and beyond.” Her poster was called Breast Cancer Awareness: Understanding,screening, survivor support and empowerment community-based participatory research project.

The students also had the chance to meet Dr. David Satcher, the 16th Surgeon General of the United States, as well as many other influential medical and public health professionals.

Toyin Olukotun is a senior nursing student in the UW-Parkside/UWM consortial nursing program. She left the symposium “feeling inspired and drawn to a career in public health.” Her work with Dr. Underwood, her involvement with the Milwaukee community, as well as attending at the symposium has increased her awareness of the health disparities that exist in her own community- specifically in terms of cancer diagnosis and mortality.“It’s not about statistics or numbers, it’s about people’s lives, well-being and health outcomes- all factors that definitely should not be determined by
the income, race, or zip code.”

Keighla Mueller is an undergraduate research fellow on Professor Underwood’s project, Keighla posterPartners in Pursuit of the Promise.” She attends various community breast health events and works side by side to provide medically underserved women with breast health education, free clinical breast exams and mammogram referral. Through this work, they have screened over 6,500 women. “Making a difference for these women is an incredibly rewarding experience to say the least. It is rewarding to know that ultimately, through this work, we are reducing the mortality rate and saving the lives of real women in our community.” She presented her findings collected through survey
data from the project at the ICC Symposium in Houston.

The students also toured the MD Andersen Cancer Center at the University of Texas. The Center has been Number 1 in US News & World Report’s annual rankings of the best hospital for cancer care for six years in a row.

Eric Buhler called his experience “incredible” and that “it gave us all a chance to see into the exact work we do in Milwaukee, on a national level. I feel so blessed to be working with Dr. Underwood and being part of something so amazing.”

Rebecca Robinson won first place among undergraduate students for her oral presentation on HPV and Cervical Cancer in the United States Virgin Islands. “I felt honored and extremely appreciative for being recognized among many accomplished and prestigious attendees and presenters of the symposium, but it wasn’t about the award for me. It was about presenting to a room of students and professionals about real
people, who are facing real health inequities. I felt honored to be the one who put passion behind this issue and speak to people from all over the country about it.”

“This was more than an exceptional opportunity and learning experience for me, it confirmed my overwhelming passion for public health and community-based nursing focusing on health equity and underserved minority populations.”

Professor Underwood said the experience at the Symposium was “remarkable! My students made me so proud!”

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