PAFs reflect on experiences made possible by the PAF Professional and Academic Development Fund

May 01, 2017
Check out our graduating PAFs’ reflections on how they used the PAF Professional and Academic Development Fund, made possible by generous gifts from alumni to support their involvement with events by the UN Foundation and GW’s Research Days!
In early April, through the support of the PAF Professional and Academic Development Fund, I attended The Young Professionals Spring 2016 Career Dinner Series.
The International Career Dinner Series is part of the UN Foundation’s signature event series. The event brings together young professionals and seasoned experts in a variety of sectors for an evening of networking, questions and topical dinners. I met a number of GW alumni and current students while networking! Dinner topics ranged from Gender Equality to International Law and Peace and Security. Given my background in Media and Strategic Communication, I attended “Careers in Communications.” At the dinner, we discussed tactics for marketing communications skills and the importance of digital and video content as a storytelling tool. 
My highlight of the evening was hearing from Robert Skinner, the Director of the UN Information Center (UNIC) in Washington D.C. When asked about value of communications in organizations, Mr. Skinner asserted that while communications departments are often the first unit to be cut, they are among the most important facets of an organization to retain. Strong communication skills and initiatives are an incredible asset. Mr. Skinner also encouraged us to be dogged and persistent about going after our goals saying, “If you know you want something, go for it; but, keep in mind that there is no one set path.”
As we approach the end of the semester, the Career Dinner reminds me to stay encouraged. While our journeys as PAFs may not look the same -- may we continue to be persistent, communicative and open to new adventures!
Using the funds from the PAF Professional and Academic Development Fund, I was able to present my Master of Public Health Culminating Experience at GW Research Days. My thesis focused on the relationship between neighborhoods and health. Existing research has established a link between neighborhood context and health outcomes. Ultimately, neighborhoods who have lower socioeconomic status are also neighborhoods that have lesser access to healthcare and higher chronic disease burden. 
Using patients who were seen at a GW outpatient clinic, we paired their data with census tract and other neighborhood-related variables (distance to primary care, socioeconomic status, racial segregation, food environments, and age) to examine the relationship between both A1C (a marker of typical blood sugar/glucose control over a roughly 3-month period) and Systolic Blood Pressure (the amount of pressure that is exerted on the artery walls when the heart is pumping blood throughout the body). 
Since the literature also has shown that there may be a differential impact of gender on health outcomes, we examined these relationships based on gender. Ultimately, what I found was that improving neighborhood food environments were associated with lower systolic blood pressure control only for men, but not for women. Contrastingly, improving neighborhood food environments were associated with lower A1C for women, but not for men. 
In sum, the areas within D.C. that have the highest chronic disease scores are also the areas impacted by lower access to healthy food, have higher racial segregation, and lower socioeconomic status. These results add to the limited literature examining the utility of the innovative food environment measures and the relationship they have on health outcomes for urban residents. Presenting this research allowed me to engage with not only GW deans, but professors, and other academics within the GW and extended community. 

Zinhle Essamuah

PAF Class of 2017
BA '15
MA '17

Marcus Andrews

PAF Class of 2017
AA ’13
BA '15
MPH '17