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UNF honors public health student as Osprey Hero for serving on COVID-19 pandemic response team

Osprey Hero Meghann Wheeler wearing a white lab coat standing against a beige backgroundMeghann Wheeler, UNF public health student, is working on the frontlines with local healthcare provider Ascension St. Vincent’s Jacksonville as a member of the COVID-19 pandemic response team. Wheeler started working with the screening team in March conducting test screenings at the hospital’s entrance. After a few months, she began assisting with drive-thru testing in addition to her regular duties. At the hospital’s drive-thru testing site, one of the first sites established in Florida, Wheeler has worked with a variety of hospital directors, managers and floor staff members from various healthcare specialties and fields.

“It's been an honor to serve my community during these times by using the skills I have developed during both my undergraduate and graduate studies here at UNF,” Wheeler said.

Inspired to help others after the unfortunate passing of her grandfather, Wheeler decided to pursue a career in healthcare. While enrolled in Orange Park High School’s medical academy, she discovered the field of public health and was drawn to the opportunity to influence health outcomes on a population level.

During her tenure at UNF, Wheeler worked closely with Dr. Julie Merten, associate professor of public health, and presented their work at conferences throughout the country as well as successfully published the findings in multiple journals. Their research projects include developing and disseminating a survey to collect cannabidiol (CBD) knowledge, attitudes and behavior data among young adults; another project involved synthesizing key findings using the National Cancer Institute's Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) data to predict cancer risk perceptions and a third project analyzed the way in which Pinterest posts portray belly-fat loss exercises and the dangerous implications of their portrayal

Wheeler is the managing editor of the Florida Public Health Review, a medical journal that transitioned from being housed at the University of Tampa to UNF in 2019. Both Wheeler and Merten worked tirelessly to facilitate the transition and develop a website that streamlined the peer-review process. Wheeler is also member of the Eta Sigma Gamma (ESG) and Phi Kappa Phi (PKP) honors societies.

After she completes her tenure at UNF, Wheeler plans to earn her doctoral degree in genetic epidemiology and work to further scientific understanding of how genetics relates to mortality rates of cancers and other chronic disease.