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The Importance of Good Data: Mark Brimmeier ’17 at Northshore University Health System

My Chicago Co-op
My co-op position is a research assistant at the Northshore University Health System. Northshore is a rather large company with many hospitals dedicated to creating a healthier world. Its main goals are to provide the absolute best care to their patients and make the world healthier, which is accomplished through projects. I work with Dr. Sanborn, a cardiologist here at the hospital. Besides caring for patients, he works on many different studies and research projects. There are 3 projects he is currently working on: Fitnessgram, Sugar Show, and Tobacco 21 Initiative. I assist in each one, helping in different ways. I will explain how these studies work, their goals, and how I assist them.

Fitnessgram is a project that has just recently made a difference in the Evanston, IL community. Fitnessgram is a program schools use to evaluate students, placing them in different fitness categories in order to make them healthier. The goal of the program is to lower BMI and increase health through physical activity. It uses BMI and some physical fitness activities (sit ups, pushups, etc.) to place these students in what is called a “Healthy Fitness Zone”. Based on what zone a child falls into determines if they are physically fit. This study has provided Evanston with unprecedented results! It has dropped the obesity rate in Evanston middle school children by nearly 10%. The obesity rate for children in Evanston has fallen 6% below the national obesity rate (which is 20%). District 65 (Evanston middle schools) teamed up with Dr. Sanborn in Fall 2013 to observe the results when Fitnessgram was implemented. This is the study I have worked on the most. I currently analyze the data and upload it to a special database Northshore uses to store the data. I recently made a PowerPoint highlighting the data to be presented to Evanston’s Wellness Committee as well as District 65’s school board. With more support for the great results we can continue to make a change for the better in Evanston’s schools, and greatly reduce the obesity rate. In the future, we hope to expand the program to other small towns in Illinois.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that affects so many in this country. Besides Fitnessgram, a pilot study called Sugar Show is being integrated into the Evanston elementary schools. Sugar Show is a program whose goal is to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened beverages, aka SSBs consumed by children. SSBs account for the most sugar and calories consumed through any food group in children. SSBs can be any drink high in added sugars (sugars that do not provide the energy needed at that moment, and thus are stored.) SSB’s can be any soda, sports drinks, lemonade, sweet tea and even flavored milk. Sugar Show implements education into Evanston’s elementary schools. They teach the students about the dangers of high SSB consumption, which includes heart disease, obesity, and even some forms of cancer. We survey students and see how many SSBs they drink in an average day. We have already a small drop among the older students, meaning they understand the harms and have dropped their consumption of these beverages. We are trying to design a newer survey and expand the program into more Evanston elementary schools. That’s where I come in. I am helping create a new survey and working with many people to see how we can make the program more efficient and expand it. Through these meetings I have learned countless things about how these programs begin and how they are continuously kept monitored. There is hope to someday mix the Fitnessgram and Sugar Show programs into Evanston’s schools together, creating a much healthier community and drastically lowering Evanston’s obesity rate.

Evanston recently passed a new ordinance forbidding people under the age of 21 from buying tobacco products. Northshore backs this ordinance completely. Dr. Sanborn and a group at PEER services, a local group against substance abuse, have been working on a small project. Surveys have been given to high school age students since 2001, monitoring the smoking rates among these students. The ordinance has just been implemented recently, and is looking to drop these smoking rates among high school students. The surveys are the main way of monitoring the rates, and a huge drop in high schools smokers is expected to be seen. Though, these surveys are expensive to administer to all the students in Evanston. To help reduce the costs, Dr. Sanborn, a few other people, and I have been working on a grant application to receive funding from the American Heart Association. I have engaged in many meetings with PEER Services employees helping draft the application and apply for the grant. We turned it in recently, and are hoping to receive about $5,000 to continue researching how the new Tobacco 21 ordinance fares in Evanston as well as it has fared in many Northeastern communities.

Overall, this co-op has been very interesting. I enjoy working on these research projects and seeing the results that coincide with a healthier world. This job dealing with public health directly aligns with my Bio-medical Science major, and I feel like it has helped me in connecting topics I have learned in my science classes. I want to be a doctor someday, and this job has helped me understand what doctors do outside of caring for patients. I really think this experience has helped me take a bigger interest in public health, and will benefit me in both my future endeavors, classes, and even more co-ops.

Written by

<p>Mark is a 4th year student at Antioch College and is in the process of completing a Bachelor of the Sciences degree with a focus on Biomedical Science. His career path in the future is to become a physical therapist. His co-ops have included being a dairy plant manufacturer at a restaurant located in Yellow Springs, Ohio, being a research assistant at Northshore University Health System in Evanston, Illionois, working as a production technician at Betsy Ann Chocolates in Pittsburgh, PA, and shadowing physical therapists within the Kettering Health Network and Friendscare (an assisted living complex in Yellow Springs, Ohio).</p> <p>Mark's first co-op at Young's dairy had him producing cheese and ice cream while also working in the store adjacent to the manufacturing building. Mark found a way to connect all the information learned in his science classes with the art of making cheese and ice cream. His workdays would sometimes last over 13 hours, as the cheese making process was long and very physically intensive. </p> <p>Mark's second co-op placed him in Evanston, Illionois at Northshore University Health System. Evanston is suburb on the outskirts of Chicago Illinois. Mark worked with Dr. Timothy Sanborn on a public health mission to enact changes in order to decrease the risk of childhood obesity and to curb teenage smoking. During his time there, he helped with three research projects. The first one was the data entry for Sugar Show, a research project that educated children on the effects of drinking too much sugar sweetened beverages. He also created a presentation on another study called Fitnessgram, which intergrated more physical fitness into the local elementary and middle schools. The presentation he created was used to highlight how fitnessgram had reduced the obesity rate in children drastically. The last project he worked with was the smoking 21 project. This analyzed how the new law banning the sale of cigarettes and E-cigs to anyone in Evanston under 21 had effects on the rates of teenage smoking. For this project, he assisted on the creation of the project and even helped earn a grant from the American Cardiac Association. </p> <p>Mark's third co-op was at Betsy Ann Chocolates in Pittsburgh, PA. Mark worked as a production technician in the city he grew up in. Here Mark learned skills in candy-making and the managing of a fully stocked warehouse. This took place in fall, which is their busiest time of the year. This was a physically demanding job where employees would work around 52 hours a week during this season. During this time, valuable lessons were taught to Mark about how small businesses were managed and how challenging the candy-making process really is.</p> <p>Mark's fourth and final co-op is shadowing physical therapists within the Kettering Health Network and at an assisted living complex in Yellow Springs Ohio named Friendscare. He completed observation hours for a graduate school requirement while also working a part-time job. Here he learned how physical therapists diagnose and treat certain physical ailments, while also learning how the rehabilitation process works in various clinical settings. This co-op will be very useful when Mark decides to apply to physical therapy graduate schools, as these observation hours both meet a requirement and taught him a lot about what physical therapist do throughout the day, and how different clinical settings are organized to help treat their patients with personalized treatment plans tailored to their injury.</p>

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