Texas A&M nursing and public health experts secure $7.4 million to improve adolescent health behavior
The Texas A&M University schools of nursing and public health have jointly been awarded a…
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the places that saw high levels of infections was the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). With more than 250 prisons, more than 69,000 incarcerated individuals, more than 35,000 employees, the state of Texas had one of the highest infection rates among prisons.
With large amounts of individuals in close contact in tight quarters, a perfect storm for the spread of the virus was created, and the numbers reflected it.
Driven by this, Texas A&M University School of Public Health freshman Tia Pandey and her mentor, Benika Dixon, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, studied the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infections in the Texas prison system.
Pandey, who is working toward her Bachelor of Science in Public Health, recently won first place in the undergraduate oral presentations category for sciences at the Texas A&M University Student Research Week for her research on COVID-19 response rates in Texas prisons.
“My research is based on data from the Texas Prisons Community Advocate (TPCA),” Pandey said. “We used surveys mailed out by them to incarcerated individuals about the quality of life and how safe they felt with COVID-19. The surveys also asked if rules and mandates were being followed.”
Texas A&M University Student Research Week has the mission of recognizing and celebrating student research at Texas A&M by providing an opportunity for students to present research and to foster an environment for students, faculty, staff and administration to learn about the research occurring at the university.
For Pandey it was the first time she had ever presented a research project, and she said the nerves were overwhelming. Despite the butterflies and technical issues that came up, Pandey persevered. The struggle of executing successfully amidst a new experience came with its share of tensions. She recalls not knowing where to start and having to rework her presentation two days prior to the competition to ensure forth her best work.
Through all revisions, however, she points to one constant—Dixon.
“I emailed her, and she said she was flying out of town, but she could hop on to a meeting,” Pandey said. “Despite being busy with her own situation, she took time to help me out. Dr. Dixon was a very hands-on mentor. She has been a very big constant when it comes to this project, and she really saw me through to the end of this project.”
Pandey’s persistence and Dixon’s guidance led the team to an exciting first place victory in the sciences category.
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