Archives for October 2021

Taylor Canada: The Historical Deletion of the Black Female Body and Modern Healthcare

This past summer I was awarded an Undergraduate Research Grant (URGE) to work on my senior Honors capstone project, “Enduring Artifacts of Slavery: The Deletion of the Black Female Body and an Excavation for Historically Informed, Modern-day Healthcare.” My thesis focuses on how slavery medicine has perpetuated myths about Black women and how these myths have developed into present-day medical biases. My major is Biochemistry, and I am applying to medical school this fall. Throughout the course of my shadowing experiences in preparing for this career path, I encountered instances of medical prejudice against Black women specifically, right here in Arkansas. I wanted to use this thesis as a way to learn about the history of medical biases toward Black women; where they come from, why they exist, and how to alleviate these biases. I hope to use my thesis as a reference to come back to when I finally practice as a physician.

My URGE grant allowed me to stay on campus during the summer, which was crucial to me having the resources necessary to continue developing my thesis. Some resources that UCA provided were the library historical archives, the online databases, and the Interlibrary Loan service, which was a fundamental asset for my historical research. I did not end up using UCA’s archives during this summer, but I plan to use them in the future for Black Arkansans’ stories of medical bias. My goals at the beginning of the summer were to restructure the foundation of my historical background, get through all the cornerstone literature for my thesis’ ideal framework, and to narrow my topic.

A big challenge that I encountered over the course of my grant timeline was first and foremost the immense amount of literature required for an adequate historical background. When I first decided on my thesis topic, I underestimated the amount of literature that I would need to get through by a wide margin. This underestimate was exacerbated by the fact that I started this summer with a much broader focus on my topic. To help alleviate these problems, my thesis mentor helped guide me to a clearer and narrower focus for my topic.  I am by no means a history expert, and my gap in historical scholarship related to Antebellum slave medicine was fairly wide. My mentor was amazing at helping me close that gap. She led me toward countless concrete resources that have augmented my level of understanding. My new goal is to use my thesis as a sort of overview of a few streams of historical literature and statistics for Black women’s health outcomes in gynecology and renal medicine.

Other challenges that I encountered were restructuring the goals of my thesis into a more manageable workload for the next year, narrowing my thesis topic to enrich its effect, and managing the emotional weight that accompanies the severity of this topic. When I was reading hundreds of pages a week, the emotional heaviness that I felt was a big weight to carry. Compacting dozens of horror stories into a few months’ time is a lot for anyone. I took this heaviness in waves and tried to remember that my thesis is not just a sad story about racist medicine, but also a way for Black women to gain agency in telling their own stories. I plan to devote a large portion of my thesis to Black women’s stories of medicalized racism.

Overall, I think my URGE grant experience was a positive one. I feel like I achieved most of my goals for the summer and that my purpose and direction for the remainder of my thesis has been refocused and reinvigorated. I am forever grateful for the experience I had this summer, and I would recommend every Honors student take advantage of an URGE grant. Thank you again to UCA Schedler Honors College, UCA Foundation, and all donors to these funds that made this experience possible.

Erin James: Summer Camp Counselor

Back in May, I began an internship with my church, First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant, Arkansas. I worked with the youth ministry alongside the youth pastor, Seth Alkire, and the other intern, Michael Buck. My initial list of responsibilities included setting up for Wednesday night activities, shopping for materials needed for service projects, creating Instagram posts for each event, making up games, and spending time with students. We also went to a camp, helped with different events such as a church-wide block party and VBS, organized group outings to mini golf and bowling, and spent every Monday at Moe’s, then at church for a sermon to be watched by everyone who attended. 

In addition to these tasks, I also planned and hosted a girl’s lock-in murder mystery party, which I feel was a success. Some of my girls took the initiative after that to host their own picnics, which I was invited to and I attended, even though it was not technically part of my job. The students were the main priority, and spending time getting to know them and having important conversations with them was the goal. While I did not always get to have spiritual conversations with them, I did get to build friendships with each and every one of them, which I truly feel is more valuable in the long run. 

Since we had so many different events and activities, much of my duties included cleaning and organizing areas that had been used. Seth, Michael, and I spent a great deal of time reorganizing the youth room, setting up and taking down tables, moving and stacking chairs, and picking up trash that had been left behind.

Throughout the summer, I have kept a journal detailing everything that I did. In addition to that, I completed my summer project, a series of short stories loosely based on the kids in our youth group, and heavily inspired by the real events we participated in. I ended up taking a different approach to the writing than I had anticipated. Rather than focus on different characters in each one, I created one main character who experiences and narrates each story. This way, the themes would tie together more cohesively, and the events could all be seen through the eyes of a student. 

Based on my original proposal for this summer experience, I feel as though I met most of my goals. The internship was very close to what I had expected it to be, though I did not realize how much work could really go into the entire experience. There were many moments this summer where I was tasked with a responsibility that I did not want to take on, though I did in the end. These moments were always incredibly rewarding, and I am grateful for the opportunities I had this summer as an intern at my church.

Gavin Epperson: Cerner Summer Software Internship

Anyone else feel really unprepared for a full time job? This summer, I was given the opportunity to work full time for ten weeks at Cerner, a healthcare IT company in Kansas City, Missouri. They provide different types of software for hospitals around the world: patient management software, government document digitization, hospital employee management software – wait, wait, don’t fall asleep! That’s what the company does in general, not what I did specifically. I got to create a website for Cerner developers to use to test their code, and I got to do it all from home. This was my first ever internship and my first time working full time, meaning there was a lot for me to learn. Here are three of those things:

First of all, eight hours a day is a lot more than it sounds! Going from sleeping half the day and waking up at 1:00 pm to starting work at 7:30 am everyday and finishing at 4:30 pm was a definite growing pain. By the time you clock out, the day is basically over, which sucks, but it at least makes weekends all the more sweet. It definitely got easier as the weeks went by, but this was something that never fully stopped weighing me down.

Second, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help:  If you’re going in new, you’re likely not going to know anything. I definitely didn’t. In my situation, I would pretty often run into problems understanding the existing Cerner software and how to interact with it. My coworkers were always happy to answer any questions I had, and even though I sometimes felt like I was being needy or annoying, I really did need to ask, because without their help, I would have been totally lost. Don’t be like I was for the first couple weeks and waste an important resource just because you don’t want to bother anyone or sound stupid. Good coworkers will expect you to need help and will be more than happy to explain stuff to you if you reach out. 

Third and finally, you should make the most of your situation! I did my entire internship remotely, meaning there were downsides, like the fact that I never got to see my coworkers or other interns face to face. Despite these drawbacks, there were definite benefits to remote work:  I didn’t have to commute, I had the ability to reach out to coworkers with detailed questions instantly, and I could legitimately work from anywhere (with wifi). I was feeling stir crazy one day and went to a coffee shop (socially distanced, of course) to work. No need to ask off work or schedule anything, just sit down and get to work! Obviously, everyone’s situation is different, and nothing is perfect, but you have to look at the positives or else you’ll be unhappy no matter where you are.

As cheesy as it is, I think that’s the biggest lesson and overall theme of my time at Cerner:  You can steer your life however you choose. I don’t think anyone absolutely loves work. That’s why it’s work. But I do think you can choose how much you get out of it and how much you enjoy it. This summer, I chose to see the positives in my situation and make use of them whenever I could. I hope you could relate to some of these and, wherever you are, I hope you have some fun today! You deserve it.