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July 09, 2021

     Andie Babusik, Clyde Group
     Anissa Riley, Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine

Atiya Shahid, a dual degree graduate student pursuing a master’s in public health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology and risk analysis at Tuskegee University is the second-place graduate winner of the Minority Student Research Symposium (MSRS). Her research poster on Cervical Cancer Disparities Within the United States – project focused on examining the effect of Black women in the Blackbelt region and their relationships with HIV, HPV, and cervical cancer. From her research, she found that there are more cases of cervical cancer among Black Women and determined that increasing awareness, access, and preventative method is imperative in decreasing their disproportionate rates of cervical cancer.

Shahid says she wants to aim at addressing the morbidity and mortality rates due to cervical cancer because it can be preventable.

“The reason why disparities exist is because of the lack of information that people don't receive, so I’m hoping to continue this research to study this relationship, and be able to analyze the data that has been collected in order to process a more in-depth review,” explained Shahid.

Shahid’s winning poster was based upon student-led faculty mentored research in collaboration with Dr. Ehsan Abdalla, assistant professor in the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine’s (TUCVM) Graduate Public Health Program, and supported by the Tuskegee University Center for Biomedical Research/Research Centers in Minority Institutions (TU CBR/RCMI) Program at the National Institutes of Health.

The Missouri native says being a part of the symposium allowed her to see her future goals.

 “The biggest takeaway that I learned while participating in the symposium was how important the MSRS platform is for minority students,” said Shahid.  “The organizers and mentors were very instrumental in helping us and providing us with any resources they had. In a world where minorities are so underrepresented in research and obtaining a graduate degree, it was so vital to feel like I had a safe place to learn, make mistakes, and present.”

The Minority Student Research Symposium was created to answer a call to action to address a lack of representation of minority populations in biomedical research. As part of an effort to address the shortfall, the Black Greek Leadership Consortium is partnering with universities across the United States to engage minority students studying health sciences and hosted the Minority Student Research Symposium on May 22.

“We are so proud of the level of work and commitment Atiya put into presenting a high quality and impactful poster – the ability to translate research findings into demonstrative presentations is a vital aspect of informing Black women who are disproportionally impacted by this devasting disease,” said Atty. Crystal James, head of the Department of Graduate Public Health.

In addition, James noted Dr. Ehsan Abdalla, for her commitment to supporting Shahid.

“Faculty lead-student mentored research is an important strategic goal in further developing a cadre of professionals ready to be immediate assets to the public health community.”

Currently, underrepresented minorities represent over 30 percent of the U.S. population but less than nine percent of STEM Ph.D. members and seven percent of all physicians. Diversification of the biomedical workforce will help address the critical needs the U.S. faces to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

Scholars participated in completing a research project utilizing data from the All of Us Research Program - an effort by the NIH that is inviting one million people across the U.S. to help build one of the most diverse health databases in history. By building this nationwide repository, the program hopes to ensure that medical researchers have data that properly reflect the current diversity of the U.S that can facilitate breakthroughs in precision medicine and lead to improved efficacy of current treatments.

The scholars presented their work in a virtual poster session and developed a variety of research and professional skills while preparing for and presenting at the symposium. Among the main research topics presented included alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, chronic disease, physical disabilities, mental health and disorders, nutrition and weight status, and social determinants of health.

To read more on the MSRS, please visit To learn more about the TUCVM and the graduate programs offered, please visit  The graduate programs information is available under the Office of Research and Advanced Studies.

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