Michael Denning

ECU undergraduate researcher Michael Denning is examining recruiting trends to help rural health care agencies find program participants.

Major: Public Health Studies

Mentors: Dr. Sharon Paynter

Department: Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement

Project Title: “Effectiveness of Recruitment Strategies Used for the Minority Diabetes Prevention Program”

Michael’s project examines the techniques used by a regional health organization to recruit participants to a health care program. Michael looked at the trends used by the West Greenville Health Council to gather volunteers to participate in the Pitt County Health Department’s Minority Diabetes Prevention Program. The West Greenville Health Council is a group of community members that focuses on health, culture and community in Greenville, allowing them to connect with community members and share the potential benefits of the MDP program.

How did you get involved in undergraduate research?

As a State Employees Credit Union Public Service Fellow, I had the opportunity to complete a semester-long internship with the Pitt County Health Department. From this internship, my supervisor and I recognized the difficulty associated with recruiting and retaining participants in the various community-based health initiatives that the Health Department operated. Therefore, with the assistance of Dr. Paynter, we decided it would be an interesting research topic to look for effective recruitment strategies.

Why did you choose your research topic?

This topic was chosen primarily for its applicability. As a health department looks for more effective and efficient methods of recruitment, this research project is pertinent to discovering these new methods.

What’s been your favorite part of conducting undergraduate research?

Research has several intricacies yet much flexibility, which I enjoy. Having to think critically and plan for several scenarios, while also keeping the research goal at the forefront of all decision-making processes is extremely interesting. This need for a rigid foundation and ethical standard mixed with the flexibility associated with the various action steps taken is my favorite part of undergraduate research.

What’s your ultimate goal or accomplishment that you hope your research will help you achieve?

With this research, I hope to translate the data collected into real-world applications for health departments and other health organizations that serve at-risk communities. The hope is that with this data, entities will be able to target and recruit specific populations with ease and at decreased monetary and time cost.

Do you have any advice for other students interested in conducting undergraduate research?

Keep an open mind. As a person interested in STEM, I entered college with the misconception that all research had to be “benchwork,” such as pipetting and dilutions. However, I quickly realized that research can literally be any and everything. By keeping an open mind, a student can not only recognize the variety of research topics and methods, but also can find their passion for research.