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2019 Excellence in Public Health Award

Katsiaryna Malykhina, a member of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine’s (GCSOM) MD Class of 2020 has been selected to receive a 2019 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Physician Professional Advisory Committee. Kimberly Smith, MD, commander, USPHS and Region 3 coordinator of the USPHS Excellence in Public Health Award Program, made the announcement.

USPHS presented the award on May 4.

USPHS created the award to inspire medical students to commit themselves to public health and to become leaders in the field. It recognizes medical students who show their dedication to public health by making exceptional contributions to the community. Each year, every U.S. medical school is able to nominate one student who has worked hard to increase awareness about health care and put that knowledge into action.

As a third-year student assigned to GCSOM’s Guthrie campus, Malykhina lives in Sayre. She noted that Bradford County has one of the highest rates of physical and sexual child abuse and trafficking in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This prompted her to volunteer at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Bradford County as part of the Guthrie Medical Exam Team, learning how to conduct and photograph physical exams of abuse victims. She is also working with the Medical Exam Team on researching, amending and implementing official child abuse or trafficking protocols at the Guthrie system. Part of her work involves interviewing emergency medicine and pediatric physicians in the 11 counties of the Guthrie system for their input on how to implement and adjust the protocols obtained from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia into a rural healthcare system. Next steps include an initial training and implementation phase, followed by review of the results and challenges encountered.

With 2,082 reports and 491 child abuse assessments performed at the CAC in 2017, the protocols developed will affect similar numbers of children and will also likely increase these numbers, since providers will now be more thoroughly trained in how to identify and handle abuse and trafficking.

Prior to her work with Guthrie, Malykhina also began a student group at GCSOM to help the school’s Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) work with United Neighborhood Centers of Northeast Pennsylvania to improve access to physical and mental healthcare to the homeless population of Lackawanna County. Student participation consisted of screening homeless individuals at various locations for physical and mental healthcare needs, addressing those needs by connecting them with resources, and then following up several months later to ensure continued care. Their initial goal, based on the United Neighborhood Centers 2017 homeless population census, was 150 participants. After nine months of screenings, the students exceeded their goal and enrolled almost 200 people in the project. They presented their project and the data collected at the 2018 Association of Medicine and Psychiatry Annual Conference in Chicago under the title, Incentivized Mental and Physical Health Screening and Services for the Homeless Population of Lackawanna County, PA.

Malykhina was also a sexual assault educator at the Lackawanna County Prison. She obtained the 60 hours of training required to be a qualified sexual and physical assault counselor at the Women’s Resource Center in Scranton in 2017 and was then able to co-teach six-week courses on sexual and physical violence at the Lackawanna County Prison. The classes consisted of groups of five to 10 female inmates who signed up voluntarily to attend most classes. The one-hour classes covered topics such as “Self-Worth.” “Defense Mechanisms” and “Boundaries.” The certificate of completion bestowed upon the attendees at the conclusion of the course helped them obtain aid in finding employment after being released.

Honorable mentions

Two GCSOM medical students have also been selected to receive honorable mention recognition from the GCSOM Ad Hoc Committee for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Excellence in Public Health Award. The students are Rachel Fulton, a member of the Class of 2022, and Michael Morgan, a member of the Class of 2019.

Fulton, a native of West Chester, applied to work at Bridging the Gaps in the summer of 2019. Bridging the Gaps is a public health program emphasizing interdisciplinary involvement to bring health equity and education to underserved populations. Through the program, Fulton partnered with a dental student at the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Pennsylvania Delaware Valley Chapter. Together, they chose to focus on chronic disease, educational advancement/literacy, health communication and health-related quality of life and well-being. Fulton created and distributed education tools to improve the community’s awareness of sickle cell disease and attended health fairs, blood drives and community engagement events where she offered education about sickle cell disease and provided members of the community education materials and opportunities to get involved in the sickle cell community. She also participated in advocacy events in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Capitol and visited sickle cell patients each week in the hospital and served as a liaison between the patients and their healthcare teams.

Morgan, of Scranton, and friends created The Cody Barrasse Memorial Foundation following the untimely death of a close friend. Initially, foundation efforts centered on a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Cody’s name that raised funds for a scholarship to Scranton Preparatory School. Today, the foundation has grown and is assisting nine families across northeast Pennsylvania who have undergone or are awaiting solid organ transplantation. In 2017, Morgan was appointed co-chairman of the Organ Transplant Assistance Program (OTAP) and tasked with spearheading a project to provide comfort to as many families as possible by offsetting some of the immense costs associated with transplants. OTAP has covered myriad of expenses over the past year – copays, housing, travel and childcare, for example.

Katsiaryna Malykhina, MD '20, 2019 Excellence in Public Health Award
Katsiaryna Malykhina, MD Class of 2020, (center) accepts her 2019 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee.