Beginning in high school, Rachael Corrone longed to be part of the EKU family. “I was 15 when I started Upward Bound and even then I knew I wanted to be a Colonel.” A native of Liberty, Kentucky, she recently graduated with a bachelor’s in public health and is now in graduate school at EKU and working as a graduate assistant.
She is also part of a large-scale study at the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), which aims to create, implement and maintain public health programs and to improve the health and safety of people in Kentucky. She is an intern in the viral Hepatitis C department. Kentucky is in the top 10 states with the highest infection rate.
Passionate about helping others, she looked for a major that could channel her concern for the well-being of everyone in her community. “I didn't know what major would let me use that passion in my work. After switching my major four times, I found public health. Public health and health promotion give me a way to make my passion my career. I enjoy my major so much. I want to do something impactful.”
Initiative and networking paved the way for the exceptional internship experience she secured at the KDPH. A woman she met through Upward Bound gave Rachael the business card of an epidemiologist who worked at the KDPH. “I took the initiative to email the epidemiologist and ask if there was any way I could do my internship there despite only being an undergraduate student,” explained Rachael. “I had already taken a graduate level epidemiology course.” Within the month, Rachael was invited to work on the Hepatitis C team.
“This internship has given me hands-on experience in exactly the right field.” Her goal is to become an epidemiologist. “I understand how data is collected, how we use that data, how to present it and how we get funded to put prevention and health practices into place in communities,” she said.
Rachael enters data about pregnant mothers and children under the age of 5 into the state tracking system. Parameters such as who is getting HCV, their risk factors, where they are from and if their children are also contracting the illness enable the HCV team to accurately plan and implement prevention and treatment plans for populations in need.
She also helped conduct the State Vulnerability assessment related to HCV infection, which cross-references several variables that predispose areas to outbreaks. Some examples of variables used were drug arrest rate, average morphine milligram equivalent, STD rate and emergency room visits. In 2015, the CDC conducted a similar assessment and of the top 200 counties in the U.S. that were most vulnerable to an HCV outbreak, Kentucky had 54 of them. “Now, we are conducting another assessment at the state level to see which counties are still at a higher risk for outbreak, or which counties have become higher risk since the assessment in 2015,” explained Rachael.
To prepare and research the right way for Kentucky to do their assessment, Rachael attended webinars (along with her preceptors) hosted by The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. These webinars explained how other states conducted their assessments, spread their results and implemented services in higher risk areas.
Rachael’s role was to double check data and rates to make sure the information was correct so the results would also be correct. “I took the data and created maps to better show the way different variables effect the vulnerability of different counties,” she explained. “When data is placed on a map, it is usually easier for readers to digest the importance of the information. I also developed an infographic that can be tailored to different audiences (such as the public or other public health professionals) to properly disseminate our results once they are finalized. My infographic shows the results of the 2015 assessment compared to the 2019 vulnerability assessment.”
After the assessments are complete and the results are dispersed, the KDPH must implement services to break down the barriers that people face in counties that are higher risk. The services that will be provided are still in discussion as the data has not been finalized, but Rachael will also take part in researching methods to help Kentucky citizens reach their optimal health.
“My internship has given me confidence that public health is where I want and need to be. I found my calling and I am extremely lucky to have done so and to have the opportunities that I have had that allow me to grow inside and outside of the classroom.”