MVA student intern Kelly McHugh focuses energy on community engagement

Matt Schorr
August 16, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. The latest Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance student intern, Kelly McHugh, is still working out the specific direction her career path will take. With two years left in her academic career, she certainly has time to determine such things. However, broadly speaking, she knows exactly where she wants to target her energies.

“I want to be focused on community engagement,” she says, “to address health equity.”

Kelly is an undergrad at Pomona College in California, currently studying in a public policy program. Within that program, she explained, roughly half of one’s classes are determined by their concentration. “I created a concentration on public health,” she said, which is largely focused on social determinants of health.”

Kelly, a Brentwood, TN, resident, discovered her interest in community engagement while working with a family friend in Vanderbilt’s pediatric clinic. She spent a summer aiding Latino patients and found herself exposed to a great many health inequities.

“That was the first time that I saw how much of an impact your life outside the doctor’s office has on your health,” she said. “I decided then I wanted to learn more about it.”

That desire to learn more about community engagement led Kelly to the MVA, where she was connected with Director of Planning and Community Engagement Elisa Friedman, MS. Her primary interest was to see firsthand how what she studied in the classroom translated into organized action.

“I’m hoping to get a sense of what pathways there are into doing this kind of work as a career,” she explained.

Kelly returns to school this fall, where she hopes to enroll in a study abroad program in Argentina. There, she’ll engage in fieldwork with community health.

“I think an MPH is in my future,” she speculated, “but I want to spend more time working in the field so I’ll know what I need to make the biggest impact.”

 

About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.