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Using Data and Storytelling to Better Serve Veterans

An MPH student uses his analytical and storytelling abilities to support a nonprofit serving veterans.

headshot of Akhil

February 18, 2020

Akhil Kantipuly, a second year MPH student in the department of Community Health and Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), completed his depth project at Impact Services in Philadelphia, a nonprofit that provides both housing and employment services to veterans.

Using trauma-informed strategies, he helped to compile feedback from veterans about their residence, everyday lives, and what improvements the nonprofit could make to enhance their lives and communities.

Another component of the project involved photography and videography, a passion of Kantipuly. He produced a short documentary (below) about a veteran, father, and artist who experienced homelessness before utilizing Impact Services. He captured a day-in-the-life of this veteran, which helped provide context when presenting his research findings and results.

Through the research, Kantipuly discovered that veterans lacked a social and physical environment that facilitates and encourages engagement.

With the guidance of his mentors Yvonne Michael, ScD, SM, associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at DSPH, and Diana S. Nicholas, NCIDQ, AIA, NCARB, director, MS Design Research in the department of Architecture, Design and Urbanism at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, and the input of the residents, he helped to transform the main lounge (a.k.a. “the pool room”) to make it more welcoming and accessible.

“I learned how vital it is to give community members the agency to request how the space might better suit them, their families, and neighbors,” he says.

Kantipuly was grateful to be welcomed and fully immersed in the community. “In academia and research there seems to be a disconnect between researchers and community members. As a researcher, I want to continue to focus on data and the human stories behind the research,” he says.