Capital Connection Fund Research Award Supports Student’s Breast Cancer Research

In December 2012, as she was completing her dissertation proposal, Prevention and Community Health DrPH student Christina Heminger received a Capital Connection Fund (CCF) Research Award. The fund, launched by Milken Institute SPH and the Public Health Alumni Association, provides financial assistance for students to take advantage of off-campus research, internships, conferences and other professional development activities. With a family history of breast cancer, Heminger chose to study how younger women seek out information about their personal breast cancer risk, and whether that information causes them to be more proactive with screenings or risk reduction behaviors. She defended her research proposal in March 2013, effectively beginning her dissertation research period, and defended her final dissertation findings in March 2014. Below, Heminger describes how the funds enabled her to conduct and present her research.

“I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks for the Capital Connection Fund (CCF) Research Award and Milken Institute School of Public Health for granting this award. Receiving the CCF Research Award allowed me to conduct my dissertation research with a level of rigor and an air of professionalism that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

The funds were primarily used to help incentivize participants throughout my research process – this included small stipends for women who helped me develop and test my questionnaire to ensure it made sense to my target population, and large raffle gift cards to entice participants to take part in a 25-minute survey that served as the cornerstone of my dissertation research. I utilized what is known as social network snowball sampling which relies on individuals and groups continually forwarding or passing on my survey link to their networks and so on. In total, I received 1,111 survey responses; among those who opened the survey link 89.1% completed the survey for an analytical sample of 990 responses. This total response and response rate is quite impressive for social and behavioral research, and I truly believe the incentives I was able to provide, due to the CCF award, spurred this success.

The CCF award also allowed me to disseminate my dissertation findings at a prestigious public health conference, the Society for Prevention Research’s annual meeting in May 2014. Conference attendance can be a costly endeavor, and I am indebted to have been able to fund my way to the conference to present my findings and network with other public health professionals interested in disease prevention.

Overall, the CCF Research Award allowed me to conduct a comprehensive dissertation that I am proud of – one that solidified my research skills and provided a research foundation from which I can build my career. Moreover, I am proud that this award allowed me to conduct research that represents the content and skills taught to DrPH students at the George Washington University. This dissertation would not have been possible without the funding, and I feel grateful to have had flexibility and freedom in the way I approached my research. The Capital Connection Fund Research Award allowed me to grow from a student to a new career researcher, and I look forward to embarking on an academic career with this project as my foundation.”

Heminger graduated in May 2014, and began working as a postdoctoral scientist in the Department of Prevention & Community Health in June. In this role she now has the opportunity to publish and expand upon the research she started as a doctoral student at GW.

Learn about the Capital Connection Fund and other ways to support Milken Institute SPH.