Medical student to receive Excellence in Public Health Award

Alexandra Lawson

The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) will recognize Alexandra Lawson, an M.D./M.P.H. dual-degree student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, with a 2018 Excellence in Public Health Award during the pre-graduation award ceremony on Thursday, May 10, at the Schuster Center in Dayton.

The award recognizes medical students who are involved in public health issues in their community. In 2017, USPHS presented awards at 78 medical schools throughout the nation.

Throughout her medical school and public health training, Lawson has focused her clinical and research efforts on addressing the goals and objectives of Healthy People 2020, a 10-year national plan for improving the health of all Americans. Lawson is committed to helping others attain high-quality lives, achieving health equity, creating social and physical environments that promote good health and promoting quality of life and health across all life stages.

“I wanted to become a doctor, because I enjoy learning about science and medicine, and I want to be able to help people,” Lawson said. “It is an incredibly humbling and rewarding field.”

She pursued both her Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees (M.D./M.P.H.) through the Boonshoft School of Medicine Physician Leadership Development Program (PLDP), a dual-degree program through which medical students can obtain a master’s degree in public health or business while pursuing their medical degree over five years. She spent her third year of medical school finishing her M.P.H. coursework, a 200-hour practicum and a culminating experience, while also completing an eight-month, longitudinal, pediatrics clerkship at a comprehensive community health center that serves an underserved population.

Lawson is drawn to primary care and addressing conditions that improve the health of others. “I see myself treating the whole patient, including the physical, mental and emotional aspects of people’s health,” she said. “I want to provide that level of care to all patients, regardless of age or gender.”

She is looking forward to helping patients manage and take control of their illnesses. “I want to help my patients prevent diseases by encouraging healthy lifestyles and appropriate screenings,” Lawson said. “I want to be an advocate for my patients and connect them to the resources they need to be successful in living a healthy life.”

During her Master of Public Health program, she conducted research with a physician at a children’s hospital, examining the effects of secondhand smoke exposure on children. Her research findings of a relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and metabolic syndrome in children with elevated body mass index led to several presentations at national conferences and submission to a peer-reviewed journal. She was selected as one of only a few students to present her research at the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health poster session at the 2016 American Public Health Association annual meeting.

As a medical student, she has participated in health promotion initiatives to increase influenza vaccination and colorectal cancer screenings. She also worked to address medication nonadherence by patients. In addition, she volunteered at local homeless shelters with a student organization, Students Teaching Educational Plans for Success.

Throughout medical school, Lawson has been a leader. She served as a student teaching assistant for the Boonshoft School of Medicine Prematriculation Program after her first year of medical school. She was president of the Wright State University chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association in 2014-2015. During her M.P.H. graduate year, she served as president of the Physician Leadership Development Program Council. She also served one semester during that year as the graduate assistant for the program.

She was inducted into the Phi Rho Sigma Medical Society and the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health. She was the recipient of the John D. and Gretchen H. Bullock Endowed Public Health and Medicine Award and the John C. Gillen, M.D., Clerkship Award for Family Medicine.

Sabrina Neeley, Ph.D., director of the Population Health Curriculum and director of the Physician Leadership Development Program, praised Lawson’s commitment to public health.

“Alexandra will advocate for her patients and utilize her public health training to address the relationship between medical issues and social determinants of health,” Neeley said. “She is one of the most intelligent, insightful and compassionate medical students I have ever met.”

Lawson will begin a residency in family medicine this summer at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa. After residency, she hopes to work in family medicine, spending the majority of her time seeing patients. She also wants to dedicate some of her time to community health projects and public health research. In addition, she hopes to be affiliated with a medical school, so she can teach medical students and residents.

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