Shelia Johnson is a rising senior from Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Chemistry at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville TN. After taking a women’s health course during her second year in college Shelia became interested in exploring the social determinants of health. Being a chemistry major Shelia had limited exposure to social science and wanted to engage in an immersive summer research program focused on health disparities. She was drawn to Project L/EARN because it offered her the opportunity to engage in social science research without requiring a Public Health/Sociology background.
During the summer Shelia had the opportunity to work with her mentor, Dr. Jennifer Tsui to explore the impact of social support on the physical effects of cancer. Shelia believes that the best part about working with her mentor was seeing her passion for studying the effects of cancer within historically medically underserved populations. Shelia also views her mentor as a great resource for pursuing her career goals as Dr. Tsui was a Biology major who transitioned into the social sciences during graduate school and Shelia hopes to follow in her footsteps
Shelia believes the best thing about Project L/EARN was the exposure it gave her to social science and its impact on health. She says that the experience gave her a “totally different perspective from basic science” and helped her to realize that the multidisciplinary study of health is relevant and necessary. She also believes that the most important thing she learned from Project L/EARN was to be confident in herself and her abilities.
Upon graduation, Shelia hopes to pursue a PhD in Population Health and conduct research specifically focused on understanding why African American women are more likely to develop aggressive types of breast cancer. For Shelia, the hardest part about being in Project L/EARN was being away for her family. She wants future interns to know that Project L/EARN is a great opportunity to learn more about health disparities as well as to explore their research interests. She says, “It’s a rigorous program, but the staff and the other interns are very supportive. It’s worth it!”