Mentor jumps beyond theory to a mom and her two kids

mentor mentor

Elizabeth Cuno gained real life skills from her mentor, Stephanie Bernell, College of Health and Human Sciences. (photo: Jim Folts)

Elizabeth Cuno has two excellent reasons for majoring in health management and policy: her kids.

Seven years ago, Cuno experienced complications 20 weeks into her pregnancy and had no insurance. At first, the hospital “just told me my daughter was going to die,” she says, “and I don’t think the hospital treated me as though I were a person.”

Although Cuno and her baby eventually received the necessary care, she decided she wanted others to receive better treatment than she experienced.

Last spring, Cuno took Stephanie Bernell’s class in health economics in the College of Health and Human Sciences. It’s a difficult class where students have to learn complex mathematical tools to analyze the healthcare system.

Cuno says she appreciates Bernell’s passion for the topic, her ability to look at it from several angles and how she goes beyond theories by giving students newspaper and peer-reviewed articles that coincided with the lecture topics.

Bernell also provides students with examples of how a theory is applied in a person’s life, like how to buy health insurance — something many students don’t have. In some cases, Bernell has gone with her students to examine their options and fill out the forms.

In class, she’ll download an insurance contract and show students how to read it, explaining deductibles, copayments, expenditure caps, formulary restrictions and other issues students can expect to confront over their lifetimes.

“I don’t just tell them what the concept is, I actually bring it to class,” Bernell says. “It’s not abstract anymore.”

Bernell finds inspiration from students like Cuno, who balances school, working an average of 30 hours a week and raising two kids on her own. “Elizabeth tries harder than almost any student I know,” Bernell says. “That she manages the other commitments in her life and takes school as seriously as she does is remarkable.”

Bernell also believes OSU serves an important purpose in making education accessible for students who have to work around real-life constraints.

“Oregon State is a great place because we can give students like Elizabeth really top educational opportunities at an affordable price. Set the bar high enough and students will reach it. Elizabeth is a student who does that.”

~ by Gary Dulude

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