From Serious HSR Science to Crazy Mardi Gras Costumes

SUMR Blog

From Serious HSR Science to Crazy Mardi Gras Costumes

Penn/LDI SUMR Scholars at the New Orleans NRSA Conference
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Photos: Hoag Levins
The trip of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) scholars to the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting is designed to both expose them to the leading lights of the country's health services research field and engage them in bonding and networking experiences that can have career-long effects. This year's journey included participation in the 23rd annual National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Conference that also took place at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Conference Center. NRSA is part of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) program that provides training, grants and other supports to undergraduate, predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees and fellows in the health services research field. This year's day-long NRSA event was attended by 20 SUMR scholars who, afterward, had a chance to experience some of New Orleans' more colorful sights.
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(Above, left) Opening the NRSA conference is Francis Chesley, MD, Director of the AHRQ Office of Extramural Research, Education and Priority Populations, who is himself a former National Research Services Award Fellow and a participant in the last 17 NRSA conferences.
(Above, right) Listening to Chesley in the audience are LDI SUMR scholars (l to r) Tamunobelebra Igoni of Huston-Tillotson University, Caleb Diaz of the University of Pennsylvania, and William Okrafo-Smart of Penn State University.
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The day-long NRSA conference included 12 breakout sessions featuring 54 presenters in a wide range of health services research topics from "Exploring Cost and Financing of Care" and "The Research Potential of Database Networks" to "Factors in Quality Measurement and Improvement" and "Policy Issues in Disparities and Health Equity." Listening to Leslie Adams, MPH (above, left), of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, whose presentation focused on patterns of depression among adult African American males, are (above, right) LDI SUMR scholars (l to r) Karolina Niedzwiadek of the University of Southern California, Eashan Kumar of Indiana University, Liqhwa Ncube of the University of Pennsylvania, and Tamunobelebra Igoni.
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Presenter and doctoral student Keith Green, MSW (above, left), of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, discussed potential ways to expand the logistics of HIV prevention and how those changes might impact community based organizations already involved in that effort.
(Above, right) In the audience were SUMR scholars Caleb Diaz and Helen Fetaw of the University of Pennsylvania.
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After the conference, the SUMR group looked beyond the city's famed Bourbon Street for non-alcoholic recreational experiences and found a great one in a local museum. Ever since it began organizing itself around huge downtown parades in the 19th century, the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras has been an annual arms race of competing krewes creating ever larger floats and more outlandishly colorful costumes. The Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture, which collects and celebrates these local arts, offered Penn's visiting SUMR scholars an inside look at their facility's "Costume Closet." Here's how it went as the students shifted from a morning of serious science to an afternoon of kitschy couture:
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In the fanciest hats they've ever experienced are SUMR scholars (above, left) Mariah Ramirez, a major in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt, and Monica Delgado, a Political Science major from the University of Minnesota. The ceiling behind them is hung with huge Mardi Gras capes, some of which are nearly a century old.
(Above, right) In grand festival finery are (l to r) Penn SUMR scholars Eashan Kumar, a major in Neuroscience and International Studies at Indiana University; Tamunobelebra Igoni, a Biology major at Huston-Tillotson University; and Nikhil Chopra, Sociology major from Swarthmore College. The rear of their costumes can be seen in the mirror behind them.
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(Above, left) SUMR Scholars Robin Wang, an Economics major from Cornell University, and Karolina Niedzwiadek, a Global Health major from the University of Southern California.
(Above, right) SUMR Scholar William Okrafo-Smart, a Bio-Behavioral Health and Psychology major from Penn State University.
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(Above, left) Looking every bit the Mardi Queen is SUMR Scholar Markeya Menefee, a Biology Major from Cheyney University.
(Above, right) Top row: SUMR Scholars Cindy Le, a Public Policy major from Rutgers University; Evanie Anglade, a University of Pennsylvania Health & Societies major; Emily Shields, Executive Assistant to the Executive Director at LDI; and Safa Browne, Coordinator of the LDI SUMR Program. Bottom row: SUMR Scholar Maramawit Abera, Penn Health & Societies major.
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(Above, left) Regally outfitted is SUMR Scholar Arrix Ryce, a Biochemistry, Religion and Medicine major at the University of Miami. In the alligator head nearby is Penn's Helen Fetaw, a Health & Societies major.
(Above, right) SUMR Scholars Liqhwa Ncube, a Penn major in Biology and Economics and Helen Fetaw.
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One museum gallery was devoted to the history of Indian-themed Mardi Gras costumes made exclusively by local African American festival groups celebrating that community's complex historical relationship with local Native American tribes. As explained in the museum tour, during the heyday of southern Louisiana's slavery plantation culture, bayou-dwelling Indian tribes often assisted runaway slaves at the same time some Indian businessmen ultimately came to own slaves, while still other indians were themselves captured and forced to join African Americans as slaves on local plantations. (Above, left) In front of two sumptuously feathered Mardi Gras Indian costumes are Penn students (l to r) Helen Fetaw, Mara Abera, Evanie Anglade and Liqhwa Ncube.
(Above, right) The intricate costumes includes scenes of Indian life executed in the beadwork that is a traditional Native American craft.