Through University of Detroit Mercy’s ReBUILDetroit program, 2019 graduate Relicious Eboh says she learned about research, public health, serving others and, most important, a lot about herself.
A member of the program’s first cohort, Eboh has discovered a passion for serving the community’s health needs that she says has altered the trajectory of her life. Now, she’s sharing these experiences to lobby for more government funding in undergraduate research through the prestigious Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C.
ReBUILDetroit, or Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative for undergraduates designed to increase the number of underrepresented students in scientific research. In partnership with Wayne State University, Detroit Mercy has become a center for ReBUILDetroit students in biomedical fields.
The program’s focus is to encourage research in undergraduate students by providing leadership, mentorship and opportunities. For Eboh, this has translated into confidence in her ability to make a difference, even as an undergraduate student.
Eboh is one of just two students from Michigan selected to participate in the Posters on the Hill event on Capitol Hill April 29-30. Hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research, the event connects students with local representatives to talk one-on-one about the impact their research has made. Eboh and the other participants will also present posters of their research.
“I’m going to be able to advocate to United States representatives to encourage funding of undergraduate research programs like ReBUILDetroit at universities,” Eboh said. She will present her self-explanatory research, “Relationship with the Father of the Baby and the Perceived Stress Among Black Women.”
As a graduating senior majoring in biology, Eboh has been conducting public health research since her first year. On entering the University, she had her eyes set on pre-dentistry but changed her mind early in her freshman year.
“My passion for public health started when I took a class on health disparities my freshman year. I knew then that I wanted to do more people-oriented research in the area of public health and eventually become a physician,” Eboh said. “After graduation, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in public health and my ultimate goal is to combine research, public policy and medicine so we can make sure people get the public health services they need.”
Through ReBUILDetroit, Eboh has been able to learn about research and community health through the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University. Under the mentorship of Dawn P. Misra, associate chair for research and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at WSU, Eboh has been performing a minimum of 40 hours of research each summer since the summer prior to her freshman year at Detroit Mercy.
“I’m very surprised by how I have been able to produce such sufficient research at 19-years-old,” she said. “I never thought I’d get to the point of having such a contribution to science at a young age and having that research translated to such an audience that can make a change in the world.”
According to Eboh, going into her undergraduate studies, she had no idea what went into the research process.
“I knew in order for medical discoveries to happen, there had to be research. I didn’t know I could make a change socially through my own research,” she said.
She explained that the ReBUILDetroit program gave her the opportunity to learn about performing literature reviews of previous research, analyzing data and formulating questions. Once her research process was approved by Misra, Eboh went out and did the work — everything from statistical analysis to determining significance of the research, to recruiting subjects to study and conducting interviews.
Eboh also met with and learned from the other ReBUILDetroit scholars as part of the bi-weekly cohort and consortium meetings. These meetings often included guest speakers who spoke of their research journey, conducting interviews, graduate school, conflict resolution and professional development.
As a Detroit native and graduate of Farmington High School, Eboh said it has been meaningful to work and conduct her research in her hometown, but she hopes to expand her reach. The daughter of two immigrants from Nigeria, Eboh wants to give back to the areas that have given so much to her.
“I went back to Nigeria recently and I was able to see the whole public health aspect and the lack of public health care from a different perspective,” said Eboh. She took medical supplies for a maternity clinic in Nigeria and returned with motivation to do more for her community, both in Detroit and abroad.
“My parents have given me the opportunity to have a home here, but also a home abroad,” she said. “They hope that one day I’ll be part of the change that can be put in place.”
To learn more about Detroit Mercy’s ReBUILD Detroit program, please visit http://eng-sci.udmercy.edu/research/rebuildetroit.php
Written by Rebecca Wyatt Thomas