UAFS Student Gains Real-Life Experience in Public Health

University of Arkansas – Fort Smith nursing student Aaron Underhill of Winslow, Ark., has been selected to spend this summer interning as part of the Public Health Research Internship in the Stead Scholars with the Arkansas Department of Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – Little Rock. Underhill was recommended for the Internship by Dr. Carolyn Mosely, dean of the College of Health Sciences at UAFS.Aaron Underhill



Underhill is an international honors student at UAFS, and he expects to graduate in 2018. He originally heard about the internship through the College of Health Sciences at UAFS and “was immediately drawn to it,” he said. During his internship, Dr. Alan D. Mease will be his mentor. Mease is an experienced pediatrician and physician executive who has been in leadership roles in the medical field from Fort Gordon, Ga., to Beijing.



“What I love about nursing and health care most is that feeling you get from selflessly helping others,” Underhill said. “It’s not just about you and your loved ones anymore; it’s about everyone, everyone’s health [and] happiness.”



Underhill says he chose to go to UAFS because “of the reputation it holds as one of the best campuses in Arkansas to acquire a dual RN-to-BSN degree.”



“Nursing has never crossed my mind until I saw what an impact it had on my sister who is now an RN in northwest Arkansas,” he said about his career choice. “My sister is an incredibly strong woman who has been through a lot, and I look up to her for all she has accomplished so far.”



Underhill said he was eager to learn more about public health through the internship. His main passions are psychology and mental health. He explained that he has watched his own family’s struggle with different mental health issues and “can see the impact these stressors have on everyday life.”



Underhill plans to pursue a doctorate in public health or research. With it he hopes to improve the lives of those who experience mental illness.



“Now that I’m looking into making a career for myself, I believe it is my duty to help make positive changes in others’ lives and advocate for mental health awareness,” he said.



During his internship, Underhill is working with Mease on two projects which are both based at a Women, Infants, and Children clinic. “WIC serves lower income mothers and children who have either nutritional or financial needs,” Underhill said of the federal assistance program.



“One project is a pilot survey testing pediatric clients for the level of lead circulating in their bloodstream,” he explained.  “The second project focuses on early childhood neurodevelopment and the effects that adverse experiences might have on a person’s parenting styles and health conditions in adulthood.”



“I have already learned so much since I’ve been here,” Underhill said. “I am beyond grateful for this opportunity.”



For more information on Mease and his practice, visit his website.


About UAFS


The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Small class sizes, dedicated faculty and staff, affordable tuition rates, and a diverse on-campus culture allow UAFS students to fully explore their areas of interest in ways that prepare them for post-graduate success academically, professionally, and personally. To find out what makes UAFS just right for you, go to

Allyssa Alvarado, Administrative Assistant, Marketing and Communications Office
Date Posted: 
Thursday, July 13, 2017
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