BHI Brain Health Scholar Description
The Brain Health Scholar program is a competitive appointment open to high school and college (16 years or older) student leaders who participate in a youth program or attend a private or public school within the greater Suncoast region or a BHI associated college or university. The Brain Health Scholar program is an inclusive program free to eligible candidates.
An authorized representative of a collaborating organization will nominate identified student leader(s). The qualified candidate(s) should have an interest in science, medicine, and/or health and well-being. The position requires about 20 hours of commitment per term. Brain Health Scholars have the right to refuse the nomination and may withdraw from participation at any time during the project.
Scholars work with the Brain Health Initiative in its effort to promote and protect brain health, prevent and fight brain illness, and improve performance for all ages throughout the Suncoast region. Specifically, Scholars will help carry out the community engagement, research, and innovation agenda with the Brain Health Initiative to better understand and take action on the brain health and well-being concerns, values, priorities, and attitudes of both youth and adults. Brain Health Scholars will receive a certificate of participation that can be included in their college application portfolio. The certificate also documents their service hours contributing to this unique opportunity to assist in the work of the Brain Health Initiative, an effort supported, in part, by Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital. Beyond supporting brain health, the experience of this program has been a differentiator during the college application process for many of BHI Brain Health scholars with elite college admission offices. Senior High School Brain Health Scholars may request a letter of introduction from Dr. Peabody to their top 3 choice college admission offices. All scholars may request a letter of support for scholarship applications.
The Brain Health Scholar will work primarily remotely, so must have reliable access to the internet. Their duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Complete confidentiality agreement.
- Attend webinars, labs, and presentations on the science of brain health and research methods.
- Complete the BHI youth stakeholder prioritization survey. In doing so, the research assistant will contribute a youth perspective on the brain health risk and protective factors in Sarasota and/or Bradenton, Florida, share his/her perspective of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the community, and help to shape the research that is conducted in the community.
- Assist in analyzing and presenting the results, including discussion on next steps
- Assist in creating communications and recruitment for youth related to the survey and Brain Health Scholar program.
- Assist with press releases regarding the BH Scholar program.
- Assist in identifying/recruiting youth leaders to complete the final BHI survey.
- Serve as Brain Health Champions in schools and at community events.
- Manage and respond to project related email.
- Receive support in the college admissions process through letters of introduction and personal outreach by BHI faculty to the scholars’ top college choices.
About the Brain Health Initiative (www.brainhealthiniative.org) The Brain Health Initiative (BHI) is a cutting-edge, new approach to protecting brain health and fighting brain illness across the lifespan. The BHI works collaboratively with Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital, to build brain healthy communities through education, research, innovation and action, with a specific focus on brain health promotion, prevention, early detection, evidence-based intervention, and performance optimization. The BHI is creating a culture that promotes brain health protective factors and decreases risk factors, thereby improving brain health and optimizing brain performance outcomes for the Florida Suncoast region and beyond. Join the Be Brain Healthy movement, because brain health matters, and lifestyle makes a difference.
2020-2021 Brain Health Scholar Pilot Program Outcomes
In its inaugural pilot semester, more than 60 students were appointed Brain Health Scholars and completed 6 months working with BHI clinicians and researchers learning about brain health in general, and how to increase protective and decrease risk factors through lifestyle behaviors. The Scholars participated in didactic training related to the science of brain health, as well as the scientific process of community-based research. The Scholars participated in the development of the community perception and prioritization pilot and final surveys for youth and adults and through this process, learned that two of the most prevalent brain health risk factors among Sarasota and Bradenton youth are sleep and stress. Further work with the students clarified the role that social media and sedentary lifestyle plays in interrupting sleep and adding stress into their daily lives. This learning has crystallized for the BHI the need to work together on improving youth and adolescent mental health as one of four core themes for the Brain Health Initiative. With funding, the Brain Health Scholars will have the opportunity to work alongside BHI faculty and producers, writers, and researchers of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma. The students will lead a Community Town Hall panel discussion regarding the implications of social media use to youth and adolescent mental health. This will lead to the Brain Health developing a public health campaign to support brain healthy use of social media among youth and adolescents.
The potential of this program to boost brain health protective factors in youth and those with whom they associate while providing Scholars the opportunity to explore potential academic and career paths is enormous. Below are some quotes and attached is a portfolio from the inaugural 2020 class of Scholars about their experience in the program:
“I didn’t expect that my mental health, my physical health
and even my grades would improve….but they did.”
“I turn my phone and all other screens off about a half hour
before bed and meditate, this simply helps me sleep better.”
“The more I learned, the more I realized how
pertinent brain health is to my own community.”
“The program taught me multiple important aspects that go into
maintaining one’s brain health, as well as the extent to which brain illness
is present in society today – more so now than ever before.”
“I was able to learn how social media, physical exercise, and even
the foods you eat can affect the way your brain grows throughout your lifetime.”
Superintendents from Manatee and Sarasota Counties have requested we offer the Brain Health Scholars program to students from every high school in the region. And more than two dozen College Admissions offices, having learned about the program through student college applications, are requesting the BHI resources to help establish Brain Health Scholar Chapters on their campuses.
This single program provides a compelling example of the ways in which individuals can learn to be brain healthy. It also equips participants with the tools to help lead the BHI’s brain health movement and campaign for families and communities aimed at changing how we care for our brains and transform how we promote optimal performance and approach brain illness.
BHI Brain Health Community Survey (Adult and Youth)
Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida Research Project Introduction
Brain health is about all of us, and brain illness is about most of us. No matter our age, gender, race, or ethnicity, no matter our socio-economic status or where we live, no home goes untouched. Brain health affects many aspects of personal and community well-being and performance. At the personal level, optimal brain health prevents and reduces the impact of neurological, neurodevelopmental, neuropsychological, neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases across the lifespan, such as autism, depression, addictions, Parkinson’s, dementia and stroke. A healthy brain promotes the ability to concentrate, remember, communicate, learn, experience and express emotions, regulate behavior, and engage effectively with the outer world through all primary life domains (e.g., relationships, learning, work and play). At the community level, brain health is associated with higher education goals, higher productivity, creativity, career achievement and personal success, lower drug use and incidence of crime, and better physical health, and overall well-being leading to less burden on the education, law enforcement, judicial systems, health care systems and society in general.
The Brain Health Initiative (BHI), in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital, is working to create brain healthy communities —cultures that proudly promote and protect brain health and fight brain illness across the lifespan through education/awareness/programming, science, innovation, and action. The team of scientists and clinicians at BHI focus on brain health promotion, prevention, early identification, evidence-based intervention and performance optimization. Building a healthy and highly productive brain and cultivating brain reserve begins with understanding the related needs, strengths, priorities and concerns that increase brain health protective factors and decrease risk factors across the community and at the individual level.
In order to begin this process, the BHI, in part through generous support from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, will conduct two BHI Brain Health Community Surveys in the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton, FL. Our past research indicates that the input from community members, including student leaders below the age of 20, provides valuable perspective for positive community growth. Therefore, we have developed two surveys, one for adults and one for youth (ages 14-19).
These surveys, and their results, will achieve several goals that will benefit the citizens and leaders of Sarasota and Bradenton. Most importantly, the surveys will provide an opportunity for Sarasota/Bradenton citizens and leaders to help shape the direction of the future brain health of their community and region by raising awareness of related attitudes, priorities and concerns, and by informing BHI’s research, programming, clinical trials and action. By participating in the surveys, Sarasota and Bradenton citizens and leaders will also share ownership of this opportunity to increase brain health outcomes at the individual and community level.
Survey participants will contribute by providing their:
- perception of attitudes toward brain health and illness in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas;
- thoughts and concerns, as well as their priorities, about their community’s health and well-being;
- physical, mental, social and emotional health and well-being experience secondary to COVID-19 pandemic individually and on the Sarasota and Bradenton communities.