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Published: March 07, 2019

Senior Finds Public Health “Exactly Where I Was Supposed to Be”

Cyanna Mitchell ’19 transferred to UT for the nursing and entrepreneurship programs. She had a business in mind to create mobile sterilizing devices and wanted to use a nursing degree to complement her business plans. When her path didn’t go as planned, she was devastated.

“It rocked my world,” said Mitchell, of Tampa.

Broken down and crying in the Vaughn Courtyard, Mitchell called Rebecca Olsen, associate professor of health sciences and human performance, on a referral. When she described her situation to Olsen, “she said, ‘We’ll take care of you. Don’t worry about a thing.’ Rebecca Olsen was like a guardian angel. She’s been incredible. She’s been my guiding light into public health, and I’ve realized I’m now exactly where I was supposed to be.”

Public health internship
Cyanna Mitchell ’19 is interning at Kaligia Biosciences, which is focused on non-invasive glucose monitoring research and development.

Mitchell is now a public health major with a concentration in health education and wellness.

“In every class I’m realizing that I was independently trying to do research and study these topics, and now I actually have somebody guiding me through it,” Mitchell said. “I get chills talking about it, because it’s such a game changer for me.”

Through a mentor, Mitchell was introduced to Kaligia Biosciences, which is focused on non-invasive glucose monitoring research and development. Mitchell was hired as an intern this semester. Her responsibilities vary and include assisting in human resources, social media marketing and analytics, and recruiting partners to test and further help develop Kaligia’s technology. She’s using skills she has learned in her health promotion course to assist in quantitative data collection as well.

“Cyanna has taken my research methods course where she learned a number of methods to collect data and other related information for conducting research. She is always one to take the class project and do a little bit more to challenge herself. This was no different when it came to work experience,” said Claudia Aguado Loi, assistant professor of health sciences and human performance and Mitchell’s internship faculty advisor. “She identified an internship to challenge her, and her passion to public health is clearly evident.”

Mitchell is a member of the Spartan Accelerator, a program of the Sykes College of Business’ Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, which is designed to help current students and recent alums grow their business ideas.

Mitchell, who is part Native American, named her company Illuminave, a combination of illuminate/light and Nave, meaning "killer of monsters" in Apache. Kevin Moore, assistant professor of management, has been an influential mentor in helping Mitchell develop her business idea, which aims to reduce the rate of hospital acquired infections by using a medical device that eliminates exposure to risk factors that cause disease.

“Even if you’re not a germaphobe, there are certain things that you want to really, really be clean,” such as pens and pencils, insulin needles and thermometers.

It was in a college microbiology course that Mitchell had her lightbulb moment. She had swabbed her pen and let it incubate for 48 hours.

“When I pulled it out the swab was this fuzzy, multi-colored, you swear it was going to grow legs and walk off the plate type of thing,” she said. “I thought about that in the context of taking that pen, putting it in direct contact with each patient in a hospital and then transferring it from room to room.”

Mitchell is using her course assignments to further research her interest of preventing hospital-acquired infections. After graduating in May, her plan for Illuminave is to partner with technology providers focusing on point-of-care solutions for the health care industry using augmented intelligence.

“Based on the relationships I have established from The University of Tampa, Illuminave is well positioned to be a successful company,” Mitchell said. “I want to provide the tools for people to be empowered in their approach to healthcare.”


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