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Augusta University CURS fellowship winner Annabelle O'Keefe works on a research project.

Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship announces spring fellowship winners

Amesha Adams and Anabelle O’Keefe have been awarded Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship fellowships for the spring 2022 semester. With the award, each receives $1,000 to support research and academic progression.

Adams was awarded the Fellowship for Enhancing Equity and O’Keefe receives the Community Impact Fellowship.

Fellowship for Enhancing Equity
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CURS fellowship winner Amesha Adams

Adams, a senior from DeKalb County, came to Augusta University for the psychology program — specifically, child care psychology in the College of Science and Mathematics.

“I feel like child psychology was a good medium for me because I want to teach, but also wanted to be a pediatrician and I wasn’t sure where I could find common ground and felt child psychology was the best way to do that,” said Adams.

Adams’s mother is a teacher and Adams sees how hard she works. While she doesn’t want to be in a physical school building, she does want to work with children and help them in a way that’s separate from academics.

It was psychology instructor Dr. Michelle Johnson who mentioned the CURS fellowship, and Adams needed to get the application together quickly as it was due the next day. Much to her surprise, Adams was granted the fellowship.

Her research is on the influence of clinical biases on the diagnosis of African American patients, in particular, young adolescents entering middle school and junior high. Right now she’s still gathering data for her research.

“The responses I’ve seen so far, their diagnoses, are a spectrum. We were expecting to see the majority oppositional defiant disorder, but some are saying maybe this person has had trauma of some sort, we should look into depression, are they being bullied? They’re asking questions we hadn’t really considered, which is going to make the analysis a lot more interesting.”

“It is challenging in the sense that I was dipping my toes into something a little beyond my expertise. Of course this is an undergraduate project so I have limited expertise. With the help of Dr. Johnson and Dr. Melanie Wilcox and their mentoring, it’s definitely been helpful,” added Adams.

So far Adams has used data from eight different states and she hopes to draw some conclusions by the end of the spring, or into the early part of the summer. This project has her considering a different angle for her career as a psychologist.

“It’s very inspiring. It’s making me reconsider, of course I still want to be a psychologist, but maybe I want to be on the research aspect of it. Be able to ask different questions about things maybe people haven’t considered or have overlooked that I think should be brought to you,” said Adams.

Community Impact Fellowship
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CURS fellowship winner Annabelle O’Keefe

Annabelle O’Keefe’s path to the CURS fellowship was through the health field and the opportunities Augusta has to offer. She was originally a cell and molecular biology major, but has changed to being a double major in music in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and health services at the College of Allied Health Sciences.

O’Keefe has been involved with CURS for a couple of years and completed the Summer Scholars Program.

Her research is on the impact COVID-19 had on nursing homes and what lessons were learned in health care management practices. It’s a topic that hit home.

“In May of 2020 my grandmother actually was in a nursing home and contracted COVID-19 from that nursing home and later passed away from it,” said O’Keefe. “At that time there were no vaccines and no extra preventative measures to be able to help with it. Ultimately I thought, what was the root cause of it? And what can I do in order to research and understand what the lapses in communications were?”

Her goal is to shed light on mechanisms that assure quality patient care in order to minimize future transmission and infections.

She’s still getting the data together and plans on talking to nursing home administrators to see if a common root of the problem exists.

“Hopefully we can prepare and equip these nursing homes for the next public health crisis, because inevitably, there will be one,” added O’Keefe.

Besides being a dual major, she’s also with the Honors Program, and part of this research is a continuation of her honors thesis. The fellowship was a natural fit.

“That’s part of the benefits of us being a comprehensive research university is that undergraduate research is at the forefront of faculty’s minds,” she said. “Just being rewarded and acknowledged for the work that I’m doing, especially in terms of trying to make a tangible impact in the community and possibly influence funding and other things in the future for local nursing homes in the area.”

“I think CURS is doing a wonderful job at exposing students to not only research opportunities, but what the research can do for them in return. I think it’s inspiring.  I probably would have never ever been involved in this project at all had it not been for the CURS office and the Honors Program,” added Adams.

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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