The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest private medical society, recently invited two Franklin & Marshall students to present their findings on high lead-poisoning rates in Lancaster.
The medical society was founded in 1787, the same year as F&M. The students, Ebony Pitts, a junior American studies and public health joint studies major, and sophomore public health major Najeda Regis, are in Assistant Professor of Biology and Public Health Harriet Okatch’s research group. The group’s primary focus is understanding factors that contribute to Lancaster’s high-lead poisoning.
Pitts examined the readability of health promotional materials distributed in the city. She found that advanced language – 10th- to 12th-grade level – was used, which is far above the recommended 6th-grade literacy level for such materials, Okatch said.
“I've never been in a setting like this before, so at first I was nervous,” Pitts said. “However, I knew it is where I belonged. I felt honored to talk to people who were thoroughly interested in the research that I have done and wanted to know more.”
Regis presented data on interviews the group conducted last spring to understand why few Lancaster families took advantage of the federal funds offered for home remediation. Of $1.33 million made available over the last 12 months, only two families applied for the funds.
Regis’ research showed most people either did not know about the funds, received incorrect information, or made incorrect assumptions that contributed to the tiny pool of applicants, Okatch said.
“It was a great experience,” Regis said. “I had the opportunity to meet many students studying public health, and we exchanged information about our research projects. I would love to go back and present future research.”
The College of Physicians’ mission is to advance the science of medicine. Early on, during repeated yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia in the 1790s, the College provided public health measures and guidance to the city.
Each year, the College of Physicians selects research abstracts from about 60 students – doctoral candidates, medical students, postgraduates and undergraduates – and invites them to present their posters at a conference in Philadelphia.
“The conference is usually open to students from colleges and universities in and around Philadelphia; however, I asked if they would consider having students from F&M this year,” Okatch said. “They graciously agreed.”