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My name is Blake Dodson, and I am majoring in microbiology and minoring in epidemiology at The Ohio State University. I was raised in West Chester, Ohio as an avid Buckeye fan, so the opportunity to serve on the 2020 Ohio State Homecoming Court is the perfect ending to my time at the university. Outside of the classroom, I am highly involved in undergraduate research, as I have worked in the lab of Dr. Jesse Kwiek in the Department of Microbiology since the spring of my freshman year. I primarily study the interaction of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, with a key host protein called fatty acid synthase in the hopes of discovering how the virus manipulates the protein, what it uses it for, and if this relationship can be exploited to treat the virus. I also serve as the Undergraduate Representative on the Department of Microbiology Curriculum Committee, lending an undergraduate perspective to the department’s leadership as they shape the microbiology degree program here at Ohio State. After I graduate, I will pursue a PhD in microbiology, focusing on virology, and I intend to spend my career researching emerging diseases at the Centers for Disease Control to control outbreaks and prevent viruses like COVID-19 in the future.
I was honored to receive a merit-based, full cost-of-attendance scholarship as an Eminence Fellow and I am also very involved with the Eminence Fellows program, serving as Lead Ambassador and helping plan the program’s spring event in which we welcome prospective Fellows to campus to better get to know them. Each class of Eminence Fellows is tasked with developing a service project to aid campus and the surrounding area as freshmen, building that project over their four years, and then handing it off to others so that it may live on after their time at Ohio State. Our class decided to focus our efforts on infant mortality, as it is a major public health issue in Columbus. Franklin County has a significantly higher infant mortality rate than the national average, as well as a substantial racial disparity, with black babies dying at more than double the rate of white babies. With this aim in mind, we founded SmileChild, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering caregivers by providing comprehensive education and resource connections, specifically via an incentive-driven, module-based smartphone application and community events. In order to make key information more accessible, SmileChild is partnering with Moms2B and researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to implement an educational app focusing on topics such as smoking cessation and safe sleep practices for infants. We also host community events to increase general knowledge and awareness of infant mortality in central Ohio. With these strategies, we aim to bridge gaps in education and help end preventable infant death.
I serve as the President of Community Outreach for SmileChild, organizing educational events like our recent virtual panel event on the impact of COVID-19 on infant and maternal care in Columbus. This event saw prominent physicians and advocates from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Wexner Medical Center and CelebrateOne offering knowledge and advice on how the experiences of carrying, delivering and caring for a baby have changed in the face of COVID-19. One member of this panel was Dr. Pat Gabbe, founder of Moms2B, a community organization that makes crucial connections between underprivileged moms in the Columbus area and prenatal care providers, as well as supporting them throughout their pregnancy. SmileChild is also working closely with Moms2B to receive feedback from moms on our smartphone application, and they do fantastic work in the battle against this critical issue in our city. It is for all of these reasons and more that I am honored to use my platform as a member of the 2020 Ohio State Homecoming Court to fundraise on behalf of Moms2B so that together we all can ensure the words “infant” and “mortality” never need to be placed next to one another again.