CMU alumnus discusses 'golden ticket' award, public health research

Presidential fellowship will allow veterinarian, movie producer to explore Guinea worm parasite


Stephanie Baiyasi / Courtesy photo

Inside Central Michigan University's College of Health Professions is a maze of science labs and lecture halls that have trained generations of health professionals, one of which was Stephanie Baiyasi.

Baiyasi, a veterinarian, movie producer, public health advocate and CMU alumnus, has seen her research published in respected journals and the Library of Congress. Most recently, she became the finalist of a presidential award.

The Presidential Management Fellowship is an award given to academics to jump start a career in the federal government. Becoming a finalist is highly competitive according to the competition's FAQ page.

Over 8,000 candidates competed for a fast track into highly specialized federal positions.

“I’ve been told by a number of different people that (being a finalist) is a golden ticket,” said Baiyasi. “This opportunity allows you to apply to jobs that are specifically just for presidential management fellowship finalists."

Baiyasi hopes to obtain a fellowship in public health, with an emphasis on the intersection of animal and human health. One such disease she would like to focus on is Guinea worm, a parasitic infection affecting parts of Africa.

“There’s not many diseases that we’ve completely eliminated,” Baiyasi said. “Guinea worm is close to being one that’s on the horizon of (being eradicated).”

Guinea worm is a zoonotic disease - one that can be transferred from animals to humans. Baiyasi said zoonotic diseases are her passion. While completing her Master of Public Health at CMU in 2020, she did a final project about them.

Interviewing other veterinarians, Baiyasi wanted to find out how clinicians were preventing the transmission of zoonotic diseases.

"As a veterinarian, my interest has always been animal-related, but I have a strong desire to help people out in the long run," she said.

Baiyasi has pursued other projects, like videos, to increase her knowledge of public health.

“(Film productions) have been an outlet to try and share,” she said. “I feel I’m an educator, but I’ve been doing it for such a long time, and I feel that there’s so much that people should be aware of.”

Baiyasi has created several educational films spanning topics like water quality, unions, motor vehicle safety and city violence.

One production is a documentary called “Saginaw Rising”. Baiyasi said she acquired skills for the production through volunteering at a local public access channel not far from CMU.

“Hundreds of hours of time spent in Saginaw looking at no-snitch-culture and interactions with police officers and other people holding office,” she said.

Baiyasi said the film resulted in increased police funding and an eventual 30% decrease in violence in Saginaw. The film was admitted to the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Baiyasi has traveled across the United States, received high honors and created culturally relevant films. Among all her work, she said she has fond memories of her time at CMU.

“(I want to say) how much I appreciate CMU as an entity, and the opportunities that they give people, students and other community members,” she said.