Health Science Majors Share Capstone Project Outcomes

News Story: December 23, 2016

Student Ashley Berardesca talks with College of Health Professions Dean Patricia Walker
about her project during the poster session at Cambridge Commons.

There was an excited buzz recently at Sacred Heart University’s Trumbull facility as seniors in the health science program presented their capstone project results in a poster session.

The program is part of SHU’s College of Health Professions. Currently, 280 students are pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in health science. Half the senior class—42 students who were in the fall capstone course–presented posters detailing their health-related research topics or queries. These covered subjects ranging from autism to schizophrenia, said Clotilde Dudley-Smith, assistant professor, health science. She and three other SHU staff members—Dean Patricia Walker; Stephen Burrows, chair of the Health Science and Leadership Program and director of the healthcare informatics program; and Deborah List, clinical assistant professor—served as judges.

Students conducted evidence-based research that culminated in 20-page research papers and posters showing project highlights. The posters followed a template that included an introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion and references.

“Most students here will go into clinical and administrative graduate programs,” said Dudley-Smith. “This class put a lot of effort into their research, beginning in August, which is depicted in their amazing presentations.”

The health science program began in 2010 with five students presenting posters, she recalled. “We’ve seen tremendous growth since then. It’s wonderful.”

Walker expanded on the program’s expansion, noting, “Students are using the program as an entry into graduate programs. Classes like community health, global health and health administration have been popular new tracks for students to pursue. Sacred Heart has such a great reputation for graduation rates, performance on entry exams and license and certification pass rates.”

Senior Jocelyn Duarte-Canahui’s project topic was “The Positive Effects of Home-Owning on Children Outcomes.” She said that, throughout her own life, she has stayed in the same area or home, but she knew many other children who moved from place to place, which led her to wonder about the impact of frequent school displacement and moves. “I looked at studies of children ages 2 to18 and found that, among those that move often, there’s a higher probability of becoming teenage parents, dropping out of school and a one-to-three-percent higher chance of behavioral problems,” she noted.

Duarte-Canahui plans to work with children, particularly those with illnesses in the hospital. “Sacred Heart’s program has helped me become aware of the crucial relationships between children, parents and the community. It has also helped me in clinical and critical thinking,” she said.

Senior Nicole Phillips titled her project “Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Have a Positive Effect on the Elderly Suffering from Depression?” She explained, “I have two dogs and a cat, and they always comfort me when I’m feeling down. That basis and some volunteer work with the elderly at the local Jewish senior center sparked my interest in the topic. I wondered about the therapeutic correlation.”

Though Phillips’ research indicated no significant improvement in depression with the introduction of therapy animals, “there was some increase in levels of social interaction and decrease in apathy and irritability,” she said.

Phillips said the project “spurred my interest in working in a nursing home and volunteering with pet therapy.” She also has been influenced by SHU’s S.W.E.E.T. program, which brings therapy dogs to campus periodically to provide stress relief for students.  

View additional photos from this & other poster sessions