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Global MPH Student Creates Assessment Tool Aimed at Supporting Growth of Black-led Community-Based Organizations

Chanel Conigan headshot

October 5, 2023

Chanel Conigan graduated from Dornsife in June 2023 with a Master’s of Public Health majoring in Global Health with a minor in Maternal and Child Health (MCH).

Chanel’s lived experience sparked her interest in public health. She saw first-hand the negative health impacts on communities that are under resourced. Chanel’s initial interest was environmental health but after taking several courses she learned more about the vulnerability of mothers and babies. This ultimately led her to enroll in the Maternal and Child Health minor.

"This work experience showed me there are multiple avenues to impact maternal health, either through working directly with the target population or providing support to organizations that provide service to the target population." - Chanel Conigan

Chanel focused many of her course projects on maternal and child health topics including her Applied Practical Experience (APE) that was completed at the American Academy of Pediatrics in the Early Childhood Initiative Division.

Chanel received a mini grant from the Drexel MCH Program to support her work with the Headen Research Group under Dr. Irene Headen, assistant professor in Community and Health Prevention Department. The project was titled, "Developing Community-Facing Deliverables Describing Facilitators, Barriers, and Limits to Growth of Black-led Community Based Organizations in Philadelphia and Beyond."

The MCH Program spoke with Chanel to learn more about her MCH workforce development project.

What did you do on the project? What products did you produce?

For the project, I produced two community-facing deliverables. The first deliverable was a three-page brief based on the literature review that identified the common facilitators, barriers, and limits to growth experienced by Black-led community-based organizations (CBOs). The brief provided an overview of the research outcomes and the call to action.

The second deliverable was a self-assessment tool aimed at Black-led CBOs to help them determine the type of technical assistance that will be needed to enable the organization to overcome issues with sustainable funding. To develop the self-assessment tool, I conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed and grey literature on existing assessment tools and surveys and analyzed survey methodology.

I also created a pre-testing interview guide to accompany the self-assessment tool. The pre-testing interview guide provided step-by-step instructions for conducting the interview to gain input on the self-assessment tool prior to launching the tool for the intended population.

What did you learn from the experience?

This was an incredible experience. I learned about the disparities in funding for Black-led CBOs. I learned a lot about survey development methodology from the systematic review. There are many things to consider such as the best delivery method (on-line versus paper-based) and optimal survey length (collecting only the information necessary for analysis). Most importantly, is ensuring the language used is culturally appropriate and speaks to the experiences of the population you are working with.

I also benefited from attending the weekly team meetings and listening to other project members. I was exposed to discussions on mapping sociodemographic factors using GIS software, the concept of systems thinking, and strategies for planning community engagement sessions. It was helpful to see how individuals with varying skills and expertise work together as a team.

How did your training at Dornsife prepare you for the experience? How did the experience augment your training experience at Dornsife?

I took several courses that focused on working with communities that have been marginalized. The idea of centering their voices and concerns within the self-assessment tool was key. The need to ensure equitable access to the tool and that the data collected would benefit the target population became clearer as the tool took shape.

How did it impact your future career goals?

This experience showed me there are multiple avenues to impact maternal health, either through working directly with the target population or providing support to organizations that provide service to the target population. This has broadened my idea of the type of work I can do and the types of organizations I can work for and with.

What advice would you give to current MCH students?

I would advise students to get involved in the activities hosted by the MCH program. There are journal club meetings and webinars on many topics that can help expand your understanding of Maternal and Child Health.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from professors and other students as you chart your path. They can provide guidance and connections that can be invaluable for your growth and career.

Start early seeking out internships and other opportunities. You are not limited to the ILE and APE projects.

Learn more about Dornsife's MCH program and upcoming MCH events.

Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit