Integrating public health and engineering for a healthier population

Hannah Stovall, a rising senior studying Public Health at U-M, brings an integral perspective to her work at CHEPS. Here, she reflects on her opportunity to improve health equity alongside students in the College of Engineering.

Since a young age, I knew I wanted to be a part of the healthcare community, striving to help people feel healthier. However, I did not know that what I actually wanted was to strive for a healthier population. My sophomore year of college was a pivotal year in my academic journey. This was when I realized that my role in healthcare was not to be a clinician, but to be a public health advocate.

Public health is a broad term with many definitions. Simply put, it is any action that works to improve the health of the population. Public health is a component of many systems that must work together in order to achieve positive health outcomes for all. One system vital for public health is engineering. Though engineering is not often initially thought of as a system that impacts public health, its prevalence is unquestionably important. Whether it be public health surveillance, development of medical devices, or occupational safety standards, the combination of public health and engineering is found everywhere.

Hannah and her teammates working to improve access to care for new patients, March 2024.
Hannah presenting to her peers about the prevalence of public health, June 2024.

The Center for Healthcare Engineering & Patient Safety (CHEPS) at the University of Michigan embodies the importance of public health and engineering. CHEPS has given me the opportunity and place to put my public health skills to practice in real-world scenarios. The project I am currently working on involves improving new patient access at Michigan Medicine. In this project, I work with a group of engineering and computer science students to provide a public health approach to an engineering based solution in order to address the prevalent and serious issue of healthcare access.

Working at CHEPS has allowed me to become exposed to many different perspectives, resulting in becoming a better, well-rounded student. Through my work, I have developed technical skills, like code interpretation and data analysis, that allows for a different perspective. This perspective has allowed me to approach public health issues in a new way by learning to adapt my public health knowledge to a different discipline. Similar to my experience of learning technical skills, CHEPS provided me with the opportunity to share my knowledge of public health to the Summer ‘24 cohort. I presented to my fellow CHEPSters about the importance of understanding what public health is and how the social determinants of health impact people on an individual and population level.

Interdisciplinary work is vital for our healthcare system. CHEPS provides a plethora of opportunities for engineering students to learn about the healthcare system, and vice versa the pre-health students to learn about engineering and technical solutions to the injustice of the healthcare system. I am excited to see what CHEPS does to continue improving public health, and even more excited to be a part of that change.

— Written by Hannah Stovall, CHEPS Student