NASHVILLE, Tenn. Selena McCoy Carpenter, who joins the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) as Engagement Liaison, entered public health research after teaching special education for several years at Winterville Elementary School in Athens, Georgia.
“I taught kids with behavioral and emotional disorders,” Carpenter recalled. “I was aware that most of their disabilities came not from an inherited mental illness, but from a social family structure or lack thereof.”
A desire to improve health
At the time, she was still attending graduate school on a part-time basis. She then started attending full-time, and ultimately earned her Masters Degree in Health Promotion and Behavior from the University of Georgia.
She studied out of a desire to help improve the lives and health of youth at an early age.
“These kids weren’t really sick,” Carpenter said of the students she worked with. “They didn’t grow up with adequate family and societal support to be successful.”
After graduation, she worked for the Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she assisted with several community initiatives. One of them, Healthy Families of Blue Ridge, was the first child abuse prevention program in the area.
She then moved to Haiti to work with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as a Health Development Worker in a small village. She remained there with her husband and two children for three years before relocating to Nashville, where she worked with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as a Clinical Trial Coordinator.
In 2013, she traveled overseas again to Kenya, where she worked with MCC as a Country Director for five years.
In 2018, Carpenter returned to Nashville and began work with the MVA. She’d crossed paths with the Alliance previously while working with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core (CERC), and the organization’s community efforts interested her right away.
“I was interested in how the MVA works,” she said. “I was interested in how universities can invest in the communities around them, how we can use research and expertise to work in local neighborhoods.”
Carpenter earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She originally hails from Sumter.
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 workshop.