Beth O’Connell became a Frist Global Health Leader in 2010, completing an internship in rural Rwanda for her Bachelor of Public Health. She received the award again in 2013 for an internship in rural Guatemala for her MPH. Today, Beth has earned a DrPH and works as an Assistant Professor in Public and Community Health at Liberty University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate public health courses, while continuing to serve and conduct research to improve health in low-resource communities both domestically and globally.

Some of Dr. O’Connell’s current projects include longitudinal evaluation of biosand water filters using field use indicators in Rwanda, impact of housing improvements on health-related quality of life in rural Appalachia, impact of solar light access in Guatemala, and secondary analysis of risk factors for diarrheal disease in sub-Saharan Africa. The water filter evaluation project is an ongoing effort in the same community she interned with in 2010 and came about when community members asked about filter effectiveness after events of concern.

For example, a child added powdered soap to the filter hoping to make the water even cleaner. Since electricity and other resources are inconsistent there, an indicator of water quality was needed that did not require a laboratory setting. Several field use indicators were tested compared to the lab standard as part of her dissertation. The best of those is now being used to test the filters over time.

Dr. O’Connell was recently awarded the Provost Research Initiative award at Liberty to continue this work with students in summer 2018. Publications and presentations have been disseminated to provide information to other projects, but the most important outcome is safe drinking water for an underserved population.

“The Frist Global Health Leader experiences catalyzed my educational process and were foundational to my current research, service, and teaching efforts. My career and who I am as a person were immeasurably shaped by these opportunities. I am beyond thankful!”