THIBODAUX, La. — In the midst of a growing anti-vaccine movement, a now-Nicholls graduate decided to focus her senior research project on the potential link between one’s personality and whether the person received the flu vaccine.
At the end of her study, McKenzie LeBlanc was selected to represent Louisiana at a national undergraduate research project in Washington, D.C. While at the two-day conference, she not only talked about her research with lawmakers but advocated the importance of funding student research like her own.
“It definitely left an impact on me and motivated me to not just settle for where I’m at,” she said. “There’s a whole world out there.”
LeBlanc surveyed about 500 people, a mix of students, staff and faculty, and ran the responses through an analysis. Each participant took a personality inventory and answered about 10 questions about his or her receipt of the flu shot.
In the end, her results showed a statistically significant association between how neurotic someone is and the likelihood that they received the flu shot each year.
The more neurotic, or anxious, someone’s personality, the more likely the person was to receive the shot, she said.
Not wanting to leave her research at that, she tried to apply her results by using them to help her create a poster campaign aiming to encourage more people to receive the shot. She decided to use bolder, more striking statistics to try to grab more attention.
“I didn’t want it to just be a study. I wanted to actually make a difference with the results and statistics that I found,” said LeBlanc.
She found that of her sample population, 40 percent of participants regularly received the flu shot and 60 percent did not.
“I really would like those numbers to be flip flopped,” she said.
LeBlanc said she appreciated the opportunity to meet Louisiana’s congressional representatives, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. She said everyone was very receptive.
“I felt at home, and it sounded like they wanted to hear my opinions about topics,” she said.
Currently, she’s pursuing a degree at Louisiana State University, studying physical therapy. She’s already got her hopes set on another trip to a national conference.
LeBlanc said she hopes her peers realize there’s a lot of opportunities to be a voice for people.
“We don’t have to stay here our whole lives,” she said. “We can go out there and change the world.”