Winning Abstract Examines “Fitness versus Fatness”
Obesity has long been associated with increased mortality, but recent research has demonstrated a paradox: cardiorespiratory fitness can be a greater predictor of outcomes than obesity for those at risk for cardiovascular disease.
This paradox formed the basis of research conducted by Samantha Hayes, who received the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH)’s 2012 Outstanding Student Abstract Award at the South Carolina Public Health Association (SCPHA) annual meeting held May 24-25. The award recognizes the highest scoring student abstract submitted to and evaluated by the SCPHA Contributed Papers Committee.
Hayes’s research, “Fitness versus Fatness in Women from the Veterans Exercise Testing Study (VETS),” explored the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and obesity with mortality rates among female veterans. Previous research had demonstrated a connection between these variables for male participants of VETS, but applications to female veterans had not been examined prior to Hayes’s work.
Hayes joined the research team led by professor Dr. Paul McAuley during her undergraduate studies at Winston-Salem State University. What began as an opportunity to seek research experience soon opened doors for networking and collaborating. Hayes contributed to presentations at the Minority-Serving Institutions Research Partnership Consortium (MSIRPC) Annual Conference at Morgan State University and the TSI Synergy Symposium: Lipotoxicity Across the Translational Spectrum at Wake Forest University in April 2010. The significance of the study was also recognized by the American Heart Association, which published the research findings in March 2011.
Hayes completed a master’s degree in social work at the University of South Carolina in May 2012. Along with her graduate studies, Hayes interned at Burton-Park Elementary School and provided therapeutic counseling at the Carolina Children’s Home in Columbia, S.C. Although her graduate study focused on social work, Hayes sees strong connections between this field and public health.
“Social work and public health are similar in making at-risk environments and populations better — promoting well-being by focusing on prevention and intervention,” Hayes said. “With the findings of our recent research, we can promote physical fitness and ways to become physically fit.”
Hayes plans to work as a provisional license master social worker with at-risk children and families until she obtains her clinical license. She also intends to continue research in health promotion.
Hayes received a check from IMPH and an additional monetary award from SCPHA for selection as an oral presenter at the annual meeting.
IMPH encourages student researchers to submit abstracts during spring 2013 to SCPHA for consideration for the 2013 Outstanding Student Abstract Award.