Meet a Lucerna Author: Kelista McGraw

What is your Lucerna project about?

I wrote an essay describing the many facets of the opioid crisis. There are so many people that have been impacted by this crisis, and unfortunately the problem has been getting worse. I wrote this overview for people in different fields, because like any public health crisis, the public needs to be educated and aware of the problem and how to help. While this is an article that can be used as an introduction to learning about the opioid crisis, I do go into detail about the pharmacology of opioids to describe why and how the drugs are so addictive and harmful.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I am interested in public health, medicine, and biochemistry. I studied Biology and Chemistry at UMKC. Other than my science background, the opioid crisis is a public health nightmare and is extremely important to be familiar with it. Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a car accident. For me and many others, this topic is personal. My favorite music artist overdosed on a synthetic opioid and one of my family members had an addiction to opioids after being prescribed them after giving birth. This public health emergency is a big problem to tackle and presenting research in a way that people in all fields can appreciate can help the education effort on the topic.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The main benefit of this project was being able to communicate current research to the readers of this journal. In addition, I was given the chance to tell people a small part of my story, advocate for those going through an addiction, and encourage people to vote for elected officials who recognize this epidemic and will fund public health initiatives. I also think that I was given the opportunity to present addiction accurately, making clear that people with opioid addiction and dependence do not lack morals. The stigma against people seeking help for addiction and lack of access to receive treatment are the main reasons there are so many people who continue taking opioids until the point of overdose. The main challenge of this project was translating some dense scientific material while still being scientifically correct.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

Present your work to the staff for the next volume! Finding something you are passionate about helps keep you motivated and create your best work. Once accepted, the staff are super helpful in editing your writing to make it the best it possibly can be. If you are interested in doing this, I highly recommend it!

What are your professional plans or goals?

Currently, I am preparing to apply for Physician Assistant school in April. A PA is an advanced practice provider (APP) that helps improve patient outcomes, expand access to primary care medicine, and work alongside other APPs. PA school is a two-year master’s program, and I am applying all over the United States (including UMKC!). I am excited to further my education and work in a medically underserved area in the future.


The Lucerna Symposium, at 5 p.m., Thursday, March 5, will feature most of the contributors to the latest edition of the undergraduate journal. This event is free and open to the public. Click here to RSVP.