Meet Social Science Scholar Krista Alles

This summer I had the privilege of interning in one of the CDC’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholars programs (CUPS), which prepares students for careers in public health. Through Columbia University’s Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP), for nine weeks I took intensive enrichment coursework centered on public health topics and attended seminars by professors at Columbia and other professionals in the field. Columbia’s program also gave me the ability to conduct an independent literature review that I was able to present at the CDC Showcase. Additionally, I interned at the Columbia School of Nursing where I worked for the Helene Fuld Health Trust Simulation Center in developing two virtual training programs to engage college-aged students into the nursing profession. Although the COVID-19 pandemic led the program to be virtual, I am so grateful for my summer experiences that helped solidify my passions for both nursing and epidemiology. More importantly, I am thankful for the Social Science Scholars Program for helping me push myself while being surrounded by highly motivated students.

The SPHSP at Columbia had coursework in epidemiology, health disparities and inequity, along with guest speakers and seminars in a variety of topics. This included private sector public health careers, graduate school admissions and career coaching. In my role as an intern for the Columbia School of Nursing, I helped create content for two virtual programs on pediatric asthma and a birthing simulation. My mentor used Zoom to project the simulation room from New York City and virtually, I helped facilitate the program along with creating content such as guiding questions and presentations to engage students with the simulations. This experience taught me adaptability and gave me a perspective on how much I love teaching and nursing, giving me hope to pursue a doctoral degree in public health to work with students again in the future.

In conducting research, I focused on “American Healthcare Professional Burnout in the Spotlight of COVID-19: A Nursing Perspective” where I addressed nursing burnout and shortages in the U.S. and offer solutions based on available peer-reviewed literature. The culmination of my summer’s work, as I also continued my work as a certified nurse assistant at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, led to an extremely rewarding experience at the CDC Showcase. Held virtually, all CUPS program participants on Zoom met to hear CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, along with other CDC professionals speak for a three-day conference. Being able to hear the backgrounds of and participate in dialogue with professionals from the CDC cemented my dreams in further pursuing a career in nursing and ultimately public health.

Columbia School of Nursing

Despite the CDC programs being moved to virtual for the summer, a lesson learned is to ask yourself: “What if it turns out better than you expected?” The experiences as a Social Science Scholar pushed me to be comfortable in being outside my comfort zone and explore opportunities of my wildest dreams. Being inspired by the tenacious students surrounding me in my cohort helped push me to be bold in applying to internships and work experience, as well as to become a student leader. This fall I look forward to completing an Honors in the Major Thesis further exploring COVID-19 and nursing burnout locally in Tallahassee and further developing the Public Health Organization at FSU along with other students. The Social Science Scholars Program also helped me find mentorship and positive feedback as I push forward into my career and even everyday life!

Columbia School of Nursing Simulation Center (my mentor Dr. Kellie Bryant featured next to the student in the front)

Krista is a junior from Miami majoring in public health with a minor in Spanish. After discovering her passion for public health, she founded and currently serves as president of the student-led Public Health Organization. She also is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed business fraternity and serves as chair of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Krista is committed to other college service organizations as well, including the Student Leadership Council. She has worked as a research assistant for Torchlight, FSU’s student-run think tank, and as a volunteer with the Hearts for the Homeless, conducting blood pressure screenings for the homeless community in Tallahassee. These experiences have sparked Krista’s career interests in epidemiology, beginning with Master of Public Health training, and in an accelerated nursing program that will enable her to continue serving and advocating for healthcare equity.

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