OT and PT students walked away from their Costa Rica service-learning trip with hands-on experience and a lifetime of memories.
When Sally Kuykendall, Ph.D., received a call for contributions for an interdisciplinary encyclopedia on women’s health, she saw it as an opportunity to include Saint Joseph’s students in the academic publication process.
At the time, Kuykendall, interim chair and professor of health studies, was supervising undergraduate students who were doing an internship in health studies as an elective course this spring. As part of their internship, students were required to write a final research paper on a topic of their choice.
But instead of assigning them the paper, Kuykendall asked her students if they were interested in co-authoring and submitting a set of entries to the encyclopedia “Women’s Health: Understanding Issues and Influences,” which will be published by ABC-CLIO Press in 2021. Doing so would give them real-world experience in scholarly research and publishing, she explains.
“It makes their resume stand out, and it really helps them get one step ahead of their peers because they’ve seen the publishing process,” Kuykendall says. “Also, if they go on to graduate school or the workplace, it shows they can complete a project successfully.”
The encyclopedia will include entries by four Saint Joseph’s interdisciplinary health services majors, co-authored with Kuykendall: “Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Priscilla Rodríguez ’20; “Deaf Gain” by Brittany Porter ’20; “Stress” by Kayla Schulingkamp ’20; and “Health Inequities and Health Disparities” by Alyssa Bentz ’21.
Preparing Students for Careers in Scholarly Research
Kuykendall worked closely with her students to determine the focus of their entries. She went through a list of available topics with them to find which areas best matched their research interests and internship sites. The original idea was to have her students co-author entries with their internship supervisors as they worked on site, but their internships were either cut short or moved online due to the pandemic, Kuykendall says.
Instead, her students researched and wrote the first draft of the entries on their own, and Kuykendall reviewed the pieces and provided feedback. Afterward, they sent the entries off to the encyclopedia’s main editor for her review.
“I think what I enjoyed the most is how much I learned from my students,” Kuykendall says. “Throughout the years, I’ve seen a huge transition in some of the topics that they study. It’s interesting to me to see what has come to their awareness and interest.”
Kuykendall says she’s particularly pleased with how her students were able to dive into health issues as they pertain to women — a group traditionally underrepresented in health research.
It makes their resume stand out, and it really helps them get one step ahead of their peers because they’ve seen the publishing process.”
For example, Rodríguez, who also minored in health care ethics and autism behavioral studies and interned with the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, researched the autism spectrum with the female perspective top of mind.
“It’s a topic that’s not frequently spoken about. Most of the scientific research studies focus on male patients because the disorder is more commonly seen in males,” Rodríguez says. “Yet females are affected very differently by it. I wanted to learn more about it myself, as well as educate others and advocate for this group of girls and women.”
Rodríguez, who is now a medical student at San Juan Bautista School of Medicine in Caguas Puerto Rico, also says working on the encyclopedia project helped prepare her for her future endeavors.
“I got to see how the academia and publishing industries work, which will be very useful in the future when I get the chance to publish my work throughout my medical career — as a student and later on, as a professional,” she says.
She adds that her favorite part about the project was working with Kuykendall, who she says was extremely supportive, especially during the editing process.
“I felt Dr. Kuykendall’s biggest interest in all of this was for me to grow as a professional and as a person,” Rodríguez says. “I felt the importance and effort she was putting into the entry, and her support means so much to me.”