PhD in Public Health student wins APHA Cancer Forum Student Award

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College of Public Health mentors usher student toward the spotlight

Amarachukwu Faith Orji (pronounced Ama-ra-chuk-wu), second-year doctoral student working on her PhD in Public Health, presented her research entitled “Disparities in Cervical Cancer Screening among Women with Disabilities in the United States,” at this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo. Her study highlights factors that inhibit or limit specific disability types from receiving much needed health screenings. Her motivations are to address disparities in screening among disability subgroups and to work towards creating tailored interventions to improve screening for all disabilities.

“The most rewarding part [of receiving the APHA award] was the recognition from experts in the field for my growing engagement with research in cancer public health practice,” said Orji, who is concentrating in Epidemiology.

Orji values the support she has received from Mason’s faculty, staff, and her peer students. She credits their guidance for providing her with the skills to conduct award-winning research.  Orji presented her research on cancer screening for women with disabilities and was honored with the APHA Cancer Forum Student Award and is the secretary-elect for the Cancer Forum.

Orji has worked closely with faculty and fellow researchers across the College of Public Health and credits these mentors and peers for inspiring her to pursue challenges.

Advisor Inspires Excellence

Orji’s relationship with her PhD advisor Michelle Williams, PhD, MSPH, assistant professor (GCH), is invaluable and has helped increase her confidence as a researcher. Together, Orji and Williams created an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which outlines Orji’s research goals and how she will achieve them.

“Williams has helped me stay motivated to complete my IDP objectives. and is committed to my career success beyond graduate school,” said Orji.

Peer Provides On-Going Support

Tarang Parekh, Mason PhD alumnus, who was Orji’s fellow student and served as a great source of inspiration. Orji detailed how her research was transformed from an idea to reality after receiving support from Parekh. Orji was pleasantly surprised by Parekh’s dedication for her research despite his ongoing dissertation work at the time. Parekh provided continual assistance with scholarships and encouraged Orji to apply for a multitude of award opportunities. Even as an alumnus, Parekh continues to introduce Orji to other collaborative research engagements.

Career Support and Guidance

Kelly Beckwith, MPH, CHES, the assistant director of academic programs for GCH, helped with Orji’s nomination package for the APHA Cancer Forum student award. Orji praises Beckwith for utilizing LinkedIn to pave pathways for students to network with connections within the College and externally. Orji commends Beckwith for all she does to provide career opportunities to graduate students throughout the College.

“I have to recognize Kelly Beckwith, Michelle Williams, and Tarang Parekh for their unwavering assistance,” said Orji. “They represent what every graduate student needs, someone in their corner that offers them the same opportunities I have been awarded.”

As an international graduate student, Orji speaks on the importance of having a strong support system.

“For international students applying to graduate schools, it can be tricky navigating programs,” said Orji. “It’s important to identify people and resources that can help you succeed against all odds, and at Mason, I knew that I would receive the full yard of career and academic support I would need.”

After earning her PhD, Orji wants to use her knowledge and skills to positively impact cancer care health outcomes of minority populations through health education, policy initiatives, and community engagement. She hopes that her achievements can inspire other international students.

“I hope that international doctoral students that come into the program can see what I have done and know that these opportunities are available for us all and very much possible for them to accomplish as well,” she said.

Learn more about the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health program.