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UMN Morris Students Tackle Critical Health Questions

Bailey Kemp and Sarah Severson at the IMPACT Symposium, 2018
Author: 
Sarah Freske ’18, Communications and Marketing
Publication date: 
May 7, 2018

Two University of Minnesota, Morris students developed a plan to tackle a real-world health issue for Mayo Clinic's Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies (IMPACT) Program. Bailey Kemp '19, Spicer, and Sarah Severson '20, New Brighton, had an idea to address the cause of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital heart defect.

Kemp and Severson joined 55 teams giving poster presentations at the IMPACT Symposium at Mayo Clinic, where they were chosen among the top groups to give oral presentations for an audience that included Mayo scientists and physicians.

When Kemp, biology and English, and Severson, biochemistry and English, joined forces to submit their proposal to the IMPACT program, they weren't expecting to win. But their original idea made an impression, and at the end of the day, they were chosen as the top team.

For Kemp, the symposium offered an opportunity to interact with people who had similar concerns. "Most of us had read the same articles, so it was interesting to see how different people came at the same problem with the same kind of data," she says. Although it was a competition, Kemp felt it wasn't a competitive environment, but one of collaboration instead.

The objective of the IMPACT program is to involve undergraduates in the process of answering important health questions. While the reality of presenting their work to experts in the field was daunting, Severson said the experience was important medically and personally.

"It was incredible to know that our ideas could actually be of value in research of a disease that is life-threatening," Severson says. "It makes you realize that you are capable."

For Kemp, IMPACT helped her to discover her interest in cardiovascular health—a subject she'll delve into further this summer through an internship at the Lillehei Heart Institute in Minneapolis.

The program reaffirmed Severson's desire to pursue research and healthcare, which she hopes to blend with her passion for English and Spanish as well.

Ultimately, both Severson and Kemp agree that IMPACT provided them an opportunity to utilize in a meaningful way the skills they've acquired as students and creative thinkers.

Rachel Johnson, assistant professor of biology and an alumna of Mayo Graduate School, provided guidance to Kemp and Severson as a faculty mentor during the program. The project, she says, gave both students a chance to put their knowledge to use on a real-world problem. "They provided a great example for how a liberal arts education can set you up for success."

To learn more about the IMPACT program, visit mayo.edu/research/centers-programs.