Ohio State senior Alexander Chaitoff has been named a 2013 Marshall Scholar. The Marshall Scholarship supports graduate study at any academic institution in the United Kingdom; thirty-four scholarships were awarded to outstanding seniors and recent graduates across the country. “I’m humbled to have been chosen for the award, proud to represent Ohio State, and also very excited to be continuing my education in the United Kingdom,” Alex says.
Founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament and named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan, and they express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts. This year, 941 U.S. students were nominated by their universities for consideration for the award. A select group of students were interviewed at British Consulates around the country, and 34 students were ultimately chosen for the 2013 Marshall Scholar class. Famous Marshall Scholars include Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and sound engineer and inventor Ray Dolby.
A Presidential Scholar and member of the Honors Collegium, Alex is completing a double major in microbiology and political science. However, his interest in health and medicine was in place before stepping foot on campus. Growing up in Solon, Ohio, Alex began conducting research at the nearby Cleveland Clinic in high school. This culminated in the opportunity to present his work at the World Congress of Cardiology in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Upon starting at Ohio State, Alex continued his involvement in research with Dr. Tina Henkin in the Department of Microbiology.
In his sophomore year, Alex began conducting research in the College of Public Health under Dr. Thomas Wickizer, studying racial disparities in seeking treatment for mental illness. “Dr. Wickizer has been an amazing mentor,” Alex says. “He was the type of advisor I dreamed of finding in college, and I feel very lucky that I have been able to work so closely with him.” For his senior thesis, Alex is comparing how different people who have experienced symptoms of depression view their own race and how this view can affect the likeliness of these individuals to seek out and receive mental health care. Alex presented his research along with Dr. Wickizer in San Francisco last month during an oral session at the American Public Health Association annual meeting.
Alex with his research advisor and mentor Dr. Thomas Wickizer
He is a co-founder and director of research for the Pure Water Access Project (PWAP), a nonprofit studying the implementation of water filters in developing nations. While the focus of this organization is access to clean water, it is unique in its approach to the problem: the organization both provides aid and studies the aid itself. PWAP is a research-based group that aims to study the cultural barriers to providing water access, with a goal of arming humanitarian organizations with best practices to ensure their efforts are most effectively implemented. Last spring, Alex led a project in Nicaragua to begin a study of how rural populations use (or don’t use) specific water filters provided by PWAP.
In 2012, Alex was named a Truman Scholar, recognizing his commitment to a career in public service. He was the only Truman Scholar from the state of Ohio and is the sixth Scholar from the University. In addition, Alex was a member of this year’s Homecoming Court, is a brother in Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, volunteers at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and serves as a vice president of the Global Health Initiative. He also completed an internship with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions.
As a Marshall Scholar, Alex will spend one year at the University of Sheffield in England obtaining a Master's of Public Health before returning to the U.S. to attend medical school. He plans to dedicate his career to improving the quality of healthcare for minorities. “I want to have a career where I impact both individuals and groups, and I think that as a physician-researcher I’ll have the opportunity to do just that by treating patients while also contributing to policy research,” says Alex.
Alex is Ohio State’s sixth Marshall Scholar; the University’s last scholar was Yoonhee Ha in 2007. Students interested in pursuing the Marshall Scholarship or other national fellowship opportunities should contact the Undergraduate Fellowship Office. More information on the Marshall Scholarship can be found through the Marshall Commission.