Amy Fullenkamp, PhD, couldn’t have predicted six years ago that she’d be sitting where she is today.
A 2008 doctoral graduate from Ohio State University’s molecular, cellular and developmental biology program, Fullenkamp had plans to be a bench scientist. But during her postdoctoral training in UC’s Department of Environmental Health, she got a taste of epidemiology and opportunities to work directly with the community to better understand health problems.
She left the bench behind for a chance to finish her postdoc work with environmental health’s Erin Haynes, DrPH, and completed UC’s certificate in Clinical and Translational Science.
Recently, Fullenkamp was named to a program director position at the UC College of Nursing, where she is leading a newly funded planning grant from the HealthPath Foundation of Ohio. She and her team will use the next six months to gather data and feedback about needs, barriers and existing programming in place to encourage students from rural communities to pursue health-related careers.
The HealthPath Foundation project is one of many efforts underway across UC’s Academic Health Center to create a more diverse and culturally competent interprofessional health care workforce.
You have a hard science background, so tell us a bit more about why you moved in the direction of epidemiology and community-based research?
"I enjoy health-based research and the thought process that is involved with developing a research project. However, over time I realized that I had a strong interest in community-based research, often called CBPR, and public health issues. I then decided to move away from the bench and translate those skills into CBPR. I am also currently working on a master’s in epidemiology so that I can broaden my skill set in that area even further."
Tell us a bit more about the HealthPath Foundation of Ohio grant you are leading.
"It is a seven-month planning grant from The Health Path Foundation of Ohio. The UC colleges of nursing and medicine are conducting this research study, which is aimed at developing a pipeline program curriculum to support diverse students—ethnically, racially, gender, economically, educationally, and geographically—to pursue health professions careers in primary care.
"We are working with the community in order to obtain their feedback on health needs as well as educational pipeline programming needs in five target areas including: Adams, Brown, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties.”
Do you have any expectations about what you might learn from your conversations with the community?
"We could be surprised. I do think these communities are going to be excited that we are coming to them to learn about their needs from their perspectives. From those conversations, I think we will learn how to better address their suggestions and concerns regarding educational pipeline programming for students in their communities facing barriers to pursuing careers in health care.”
Once you’ve gathered data, what are the next steps?
"Once we have gathered the data, a pipeline program curriculum will be developed in partnership with the broader University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center to address the feedback we have heard from the community. We will then submit our findings and proposal for implementation funding.”
On a more personal note, tell us a bit more about you and what you like to do in your spare time?
"I have an almost-3-year-old daughter who keeps me on my toes and I absolutely love it! Outside of spending time with my family, I also enjoy gardening, sewing and crafting of all kinds.”