Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Leadership lived: Student discovers passion for medical research at UIS

As an undergraduate biology major at the University of Illinois Springfield, Abigail Norville has been heavily involved in a major medical research project.

Norville has been working with UIS faculty members and other students to study Hepatitis C, a viral blood born pathogen, in the central Illinois homeless population. The students traveled to homeless shelters in five cities where they tested the population for the disease.

“We wanted to determine if there was a higher prevalence within the homeless population compared to the general population,” said Norville. “Our research has shown that there’s a 15.35% greater prevalence within the homeless population.”

Norville is the winner of the Brookens Library Undergraduate Research Award and was recently chosen to present her research at the Illinois State Capitol during University of Illinois Undergraduate Research Day. She shared her findings with lawmakers and others visiting the seat of state government.

“It feels good to let people know, legislators know, how prevalent this is and how big of a problem and burden this is on the general public,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know about Hepatitis C, even though it is more prevalent than HIV and kills more people than HIV.”

Off campus, Norville works as a chief medical scribe for HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and HSHS St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield. She also regularly volunteers at HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital.

She is also the secretary for the UIS chapter of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society and is a member of the UIS Biology Club. Following graduation from UIS, Norville would like to go to medical school and become a doctor.

“I like working hands on, one-on-one with people and I would definitely love to be a doctor for underrepresented communities, such as the homeless,” she said.

Norville admits that she never though her research on Hepatitis C would help shape her future.

“Once I started working with it, I realized just how important it was, but I still didn’t think it was going to be important enough to go to the state capitol and as I moved forward, I was like ‘this is really important,’” she said.

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