Emerging Scholars Fellowship

Emerging Scholars: A warm welcome and friendly introduction

chesika_crump_2Hi, I’m Chesika Crump, and I welcome you all to my blog. I’m currently a sophmore at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky with a major in Biology/Pre-Medicine. My goal after graduation is to enroll in a medical school. Thank you to the Active Minds and the Scattergood Foundation for the support and opportunity to conduct my research.

A Look into my Research

After the national tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting, News8 broadcasted an interview with a group of pet therapy volunteers. These volunteers had brought a dog therapy group to cheer up a grief-stricken community. The local dogs served their community in a desperate time in hopes of bringing smiles to those around. Dog handlers said the response to the dogs was awe-inspiring as children and adults alike laughed and smiled while petting the dogs. There was a sense of joy and happiness that was rare during this time of grief. These gentle and kind creatures supplied an unconditional love that could be found nowhere else.

Source: Simoni, Stephanie. “Therapy dogs comfort Newtown.” News8. N.p., 18 Dec 2012. Web. 24 Jan 2013 http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/fairfield_cty/therapy-dogs-comfort-newtown#.UNL9fW_G9d0

This is one of many examples of how animals represent a source of support and comfort to people. For decades, there has been as increased interest in researching the health benefits of animal-assisted therapy programs. These programs have had much success in many populations, such as the elderly and autistic children; and in a range of settings, including hospitals, schools, and prisons. Health benefits include improvement in blood pressure, depression, and stress levels. Despite the success, animal-assisted therapy programs have failed to impress medical and mental health professionals as an alternative health procedure. This is due to data inconsistencies and unstandardized methodology in past research. For more valid data, there needs to be more studies in which a standardized intervention with measurable effects is applied to a population.

This research project will find answers in university students, specifically first year females. Of the many populations studied in research, university students have some of the highest levels of stress. Stress is due to many factors, such as acadmics, finances, illness, or traumatic events. Within this population, first year female students have the highest levels of stress. Mental health and well being are issues on university campuses. While there are many options available to stressed students, such as counseling and physical therapy, many options are time-extensive and expensive to students.

While conducting research, I will be investigating if animal-assisted therapy provides any health benefits to people through improvement in blood pressure, heart and respiration rate, and stress levels. A small pet therapy program will be conducted and organized with sessions available to first year female students at Murray State University. Data will be collected from 30-40 participants.I plan to explore the use of pet therapy as a less time-intensive and expensive approach that is likely to be attractive to most students. Hopefully with my data, I can raise awareness of the issue of mental health and benefits of animal-assisted therapy programs in order to encourage programs on university campuses.

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Thank you for reading my blog. Please come back for more updates on my progress.

Chesika