Rose Barham joined the women’s ice hockey team in college though she had never played the sport before. “I love learning new things,” says Barham, who ran for the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees with the same desire to learn. In August, she became the first student in the School of Medicine’s 45-year history to win a seat on the board.
A second-year medical student, Rose is a full-voting member and serves on the Academic Affairs Committee and the Committee on Student Life. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn how the University is run, and an opportunity to learn more about what is happening at other campuses, especially with the allied health schools.”
Having grown up in Massachusetts, earned her undergraduate degree at Skidmore College in upstate New York, and worked five years in research at Pfizer labs in Groton prior to enrolling in medical school, Barham brings a fresh perspective to her two-year post.
As a board member, Barham’s responsibilities are varied. She not only attends board meetings and votes on major issues impacting the University, but is also invited to UConn events such as the groundbreaking for The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, on Jan. 17 during her lunch period between classes.
Barham enthusiastically supports Bioscience Connecticut and the Board’s broad support of biomedical engineering and bioscience research. She is also interested in seeing allied health programs become more integrated with academic programs at the Health Center.
“It is a disadvantage for the medical and dental schools to be separate from nursing, pharmacy, and social work,” she said. But Rose is optimistic and believes there are more opportunities for the students to interact and learn together.
Barham says UConn’s Urban Service Track, in which she is a scholar, can serve as a prime example. Each year, up to 10 students from each of the University Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing are selected for the four-year program to study and address the health care issues of the state’s inner cities and underserved populations.
“We run through cases, and we have nurses and social workers there. It’s fabulous, but limited to a small number of people,” explains Barham. It also must be taken as extra credit outside the curriculum. But Barham feels it is well worth it and has given her invaluable experience.
Last year, she provided health education at a Sickle Cell Benefit Walk, and she is currently designing curricula and training classmates to lead health education programs at Halfway Sendaros Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, a community center for middle and high school students in New Britain.
Barham realizes she represents more than just the Health Center and medical school.
She holds the sole Board of Trustees seat representing all of UConn’s graduate students. “My responsibility is to be the voice for all student concerns and interests, not just the Health Center.”
“One of the issues for graduate students is that the University, in general, is undergraduate focused,” adds Barham. “Graduate students have different needs. They are older, more independent, have families and jobs. I would like to see more activities on campus that are inclusive of families.”
The Board of Trustees convenes approximately every six weeks, and the subcommittees often meet before or after the board meetings. Barham invests additional time preparing for the meetings and making up the classes she misses.
“There is a lot to learn about who makes what kinds of decisions about the hospital and about the Health Center in relation to the University,” Rose says. “It’s a learning curve.”
When Barham is not at the Health Center, she squeezes in gym workouts several days a week, and gardens and cooks with her husband, David Forster, a soil fertility consultant.
“I think it is important to be involved outside of classes, but you can’t be involved in everything. It’s constant juggling. It’s more than a full-time job, but I’m so glad to serve and provide a voice for the students,” Barham says.