Notre Dame Graduate: Improving our Community

Notre Dame alumna Katherine Merritt ’14, MS ’16, is well on her way to improving our community health system through her work and dedication to behind the scenes research and analysis of population health-based initiatives.

“I am interested in using what I have learned at Notre Dame and applying it by giving back to the South Bend community,” says Merritt. “I am passionate about population health and thankful to have the opportunity to learn from and work with people directly impacting healthcare for all of us.”

A Science-Business major at Notre Dame, Merritt’s first exposure to global health was as an undergraduate during Junior Parents Weekend where she attended a lecture by Fr. James Foster, CSC, Associate Professional Specialist, who holds the Larry Baldinger Professorship in Preprofessional Studies. It was there she was introduced to research opportunities outside of clinical practice.

After graduation, Merritt served for a year as a Passionist Volunteer International in Mandeville, Jamaica before becoming a member of the Master of Science in Global Health Class of 2016. Merritt developed her Capstone research project under the guidance of Notre Dame’s Associate Director of Global Health Training Lacey Ahern. Merritt’s Capstone research project, “Establishing a Conceptual Framework for Community-Based Palliative Cancer Care in Rural and Peri-Urban Peru,” in partnership with the Catholic Medical Mission Board, prepared her well for her current work.

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Merritt applied for a prestigious and competitive Global Health Research Associate (GHRA) position with Saint Joseph Medical System in Mishawaka. GHRAs are employed by the University, but work in St. Joseph County, Indiana with numerous partners to provide technical assistance for program development, implementation and evaluationevaluation, and program development and implementation related to a variety of population health challenges. This one-year position was developed through a partnership between the University of Notre Dame Eck Institute for Global Health and Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS).

The purpose of this GHRA is to help SJHS identify and analyze chronic disease management programs within the mission clinics: Family Medicine Center, Family Medicine Faculty Physicians, Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, and Our Lady of the Rosary Clinic. Additionally, the presence of the GHRA within the health system allows for statistical analysis of multiple population health-based initiatives and gives insight into what new programs are needed.

The next step for Merritt will be medical school. “This experience has enriched my understanding of the operations and complexities that occur within a hospital and health system. Throughout this year, I have had many opportunities to work with health care workers across the entire health system, ranging from topics in diabetes education to determining how a patient smoothly transitions after a hospital stay. I have also been exposed to community needs and health care coordination that are becoming more important in today’s medical world.”

Merritt’s favorite part of her role thus far is, learning about and being exposed to the interdisciplinary workings of a top rated hospital system. “It is amazing to see the extent of the patient care support system,” states Merritt. “I really enjoy interacting with my co-workers. They are extremely passionate about what they are doing and committed to the mission of the hospital and health care. I am confident that what I have learned will benefit my future patients and help me to become a better physician."

The University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health is a cross-disciplinary group of faculty whose research and teaching are dedicated toward finding and implementing solutions to global health challenges. Over 85 faculty serve the Institute’s global mission to promote research, training and service to advance health standards for all people, especially people of low- and middle-income countries and communities.

The Eck Institute for Global Health is a university-wide enterprise that recognizes health as a fundamental human right and endeavors to promote research, training, and service to advance health standards for all people, especially people in low and middle-income countries, who are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases.

Contact Sarah Craig at: 574-631-2665

Originally published by Sarah Craig at on May 05, 2017.