Social Work Student Utilizes Leadership and Research for a Global Impact

Richard Brito

As a first-generation college student, Richard Brito wanted to make the most of the opportunity at Florida State University. Richard stated that upon arriving from his hometown of Miami, Florida, in 2016, he made a commitment to himself to strive for continued personal growth and self-discovery. Inspired by his mother and their lived experiences, he immersed himself in campus life and its opportunities.

As a psychology major, Richard joined the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and joined the FSU Institute for Family Violence Studies (IFVS) as a research assistant in 2017. “I was drawn to this Institute because of my own past experiences,” he related. Working at IFVS allowed Richard to become aware of his own emotional turmoil and began a journey for emotional growth and self-awareness through the support of the University Counseling Center.

He also found a lot of support from Karen Oehme, who is the IFVS’s Director and one of his early mentors. “Ms. Oehme made FSU my new home,” he said. “Through her guidance and teachings, I was able to flourish and all the pieces came together. I was able to find and become aware of my own resilience and the strength that I possess.”

Resilience would play a key role in Richard’s campus experiences through the IFVS Student Resilience Project. He led the efforts to establish a Student Ambassador Program to train students on advocating for mental health services and informing others on the preventative tools available at FSU. “Through this experience, I gained empathy from the shared life experiences from students of different backgrounds,” he recounted. He went on to organize Resilient ‘Noles in 2019, which is responsible for the ambassador program’s longevity and a scholarship program for the Professional Certification in Trauma and Resilience offered at IFVS. As Oehme puts it, “Richard has been a part of the successes of the IFVS for several years now. We are so proud of his work and look forward to seeing the marvelous future he will create for himself.”

Richard was simultaneously leading efforts to expand Global Brigades projects at FSU while he worked with IFVS and The Student Resilience Project. Global Brigades is an international non-profit focused on utilizing a holistic model to meet community health and economic needs worldwide through community ownership and collaboration. By 2018, Richard had helped establish Medical and Dental Brigades at FSU. “The more leadership and teaching experiences I gained, the more I wanted to mentor others with support and encouragement toward a better lifestyle,” he recalled.

Volunteering on a Medical and Dental Brigades trip to Panama in 2019, Richard witnessed firsthand how a “dedicated, well-informed, collaborative effort” can make amazing things happen. His fellow students and three doctors served more than 700 people in Panama in three days. With this kind of impact in mind, he became the Campus Chairperson for Global Brigades at FSU, further establishing brigades in public health, legal empowerment, business, water, and engineering. These efforts were acknowledged in 2020, with FSU taking second place in the national Global Brigades Campus Championship.

Through Global Brigades, he also met Dr. Charles Fleischer, an Assistant Professor and Director of the Center on Global Health at FSU College of Medicine. Richard pitched to Dr. Fleischer an expansion of projects in public health. After further discussions and interviews, Richard was selected to lead several components of this project expansion as Sub-Investigator.

In 2020, Richard graduated from his undergraduate program and decided to continue at Florida State to pursue his MSW degree in the Social Leadership concentration. This decision would expand his skill set as well as his efforts as Sub-Investigator for various research conducted by Dr. Fleischer and Dr. Nicole Cheung at the FSU College of Medicine.

With an interdisciplinary team, the research project focused on preventative medicine and global health, as well as publishing both pre- and post-interventional studies on various topics. The project’s specific aim started with work in rural Honduras in the village of Gracias a Dios to address the high rate of diarrheal illnesses that significantly impact children in the region and are the cause of premature deaths.

“Globally, more than 2.2 million lives are lost each year due to these [diarrheal] illnesses,” Richard pointed out. In Honduras, the death rate from diarrheal illnesses is estimated at more than 1,000 due to the lack of access to potable water and healthcare. A multitude of studies reveal that experiencing severe diarrheal illnesses in the first two years of life can cause long-term disability and diminished quality of life. The choice to focus on Gracias a Dios was based on a water analysis in 2017 that indicated a total fecal coliform bacterium count of 68,000 colonies per 100 millimeters of water, with potable drinking water requiring a fecal coliform count of zero to be safe.

The project targeted reducing infection rates through prevention and treatment, including water filtration, sanitation, and hygiene education. A diverse interinstitutional team was involved, including public health, nursing, medical, osteopathic and pharmacy students from FSU and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) universities alongside faculty and staff from the FSU College of Medicine and College of Nursing, FAMU College of Pharmacy and Institute of Public Health, and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic.

The team utilizes culturally acceptable and well-researched interventions that are scalable and sustainable while also mitigating any possible harm. The project also held the objective to make it a rich student experience in research and scholarship, publication, grant writing, and poster presentations. Richard envisions the project’s collaboration as only the beginning for other opportunities to best serve underserved and rural regions of Honduras, Central America and beyond.

Richard was immersed in the projects not only on the ground level in Honduras, but throughout the research project including direct work with the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator of the interdisciplinary Global Health project within FSU College of Medicine (COM). The team would present their findings on seven of these projects at the 2021 FSU College of Medicine Research Conference and the 2020 American Medical Association Region 4 Conference, receiving awards for each presentation at the latter conference (See the list of conference presentations and prizes below).

Beyond the presentations and prizes, Richard is most concerned about making a positive impact in the world. These experiences have culminated in an entrepreneurial pursuit that he created with his collaborators called The Brightside Productions. Richard and his team at The Brightside Productions want to provide quality evidence-based research to the entertainment industry.

“I have learned so much about important topics,” he explained. “I want to share this knowledge to bridge the educational gap for individuals who lack access to education in a creative and simplified form that is engaging and understood by those of all backgrounds.” Richard is set to graduate in 2022 with big goals to continue making a national and global impact by improving the lives of others.

To contact Richard Brito, email him at rcb15d@my.fsu.edu.
 

American Medical Association Region 4 Conference Acceptance 2020-2021:
  1. Hand and Oral Hygiene: Education and Prevention of Diarrheal Illnesses (3rd place)

Authors: Richard Brito, B.S.; Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Jared Wainwright, B.S.; Rocio Diaz; Sydney Pinto, B.S.; Natalie Dix, B.S.; Mohammad Mohyuddin; Annie Chow; Pedro Padilla, DDS; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Charles Fleischer, M.D.

  1. Assessing Viral Infections in Rural Honduras (6th place)

Authors: Gabriella Sehres, M.S.; Richard Brito, B.S.; Melissa Chen, B.S.; Katie Dang; Elly Maldur; Charles Fleischer, M.D.; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Briana Journée, PharmD, MBA, AAHIVP

  1. Human Trafficking: Consequences and Possible Interventions (10th place)

Authors: Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Richard Brito, B.S.; Gabriella Sehres, M.S.; Analise DiIorio, B.S.; Lynn Huynh, Elly Maldur, Sofia Paez, Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS2; Charles Fleischer, M.D.1
 

FSU College of Medicine Research Conference Acceptance 2020-2021:
 
  1. Domestic Violence: Prevention and Intervention

Authors:  Richard Brito, B.S.; Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Elly Maldur; Gabriella Sehres, M.S.; Sofia Paez; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Charles Fleischer, M.D.

  1. Human Trafficking: Consequences and Possible Interventions

Authors: Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Richard Brito, B.S.; Gabriella Sehres, M.S.; Analise DiIorio, B.S.; Lynn Huynh, Elly Maldur, Sofia Paez, Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS2; Charles Fleischer, M.D.1

  1. Introduction of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatments to Honduras:  A Strategy to Treat Common Complaints Without the Need for Hospital Care

Authors: Ronald Lott B.S., Richard Brito B.S., Thomas Pasquale B.S., Megan McEvoy; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Charles Fleischer, M.D.

  1. Hand and Oral Hygiene: Education and Prevention of Diarrheal Illnesses

Authors: Richard Brito, B.S.; Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Jared Wainwright, B.S.; Rocio Diaz; Sydney Pinto, B.S.; Natalie Dix, B.S.; Mohammad Mohyuddin; Annie Chow; Pedro Padilla, DDS; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Charles Fleischer, M.D.

  1. Addressing Fungal Infections in Rural Honduras 

Authors: Richard Brito, B.S.; Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Madison Leonard; Elly Maldur; Sydney Pinto, B.S.; Angelica Dela Cruz; Maria Quintana; Mohammad Mohyuddin; Ernest Quirindongo, B.C.P.S.; Ashley Valdes; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Charles Fleischer, M.D.

  1. Addressing Scabies in Rural Honduras

Authors: Richard Brito, B.S.; Madison Leonard; Elly Maldur; Michelle Flohr, M.S.; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, B.C.P.S.; Charles Fleischer, M.D.; Maria Deschaine, M.D.

  1. Assessing Viral Infections in Rural Honduras

Authors: Gabriella Sehres, M.S.; Richard Brito, B.S.; Melissa Chen, B.S.; Katie Dang; Elly Maldur; Charles Fleischer, M.D.; Nicole Cheung, PharmD, BCPS; Briana Journée, PharmD, MBA, AAHIVP

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 08:33 AM
Last updated: Thu, 01/27/2022 - 10:48 AM