In one sentence, what is public health to you?
Public health is everything and everywhere.
What inspired you to study public health?
I always had an interest in overall health and wellness, and how a person’s environment impacted their health and longevity. I went to college at Virginia Tech and I noticed the impact the 2007 shooting had on me and the community. This piqued my interest in how violence could be studied as a public health issue. As mass shootings became normalized in our society, I wanted to learn more about the patterns of mass violence. So, I pursued an MPH and studied the epidemiology of homicide-followed-by-suicides in the United States. Since, then I’ve broadened my research to learn more about mental health and substance use comorbidities, and how public health and public safety intersect.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
Teaching and mentoring students! I have had the opportunity to teach and support students either in a classroom or in a one-on-one setting. I really enjoy following a student from the beginning of their academic experience to when they graduate and reflect on all they have learned, and what they will soon do for the field!
If you are applying to a public health graduate program, do not simply pick a program because they accepted you. I strongly recommend you learn as much as you can about the faculty at these schools and the work they do so that your interests align with their work. A meaningful and enjoyable graduate experience is partly dependent on the connections you make with the faculty in your program and the work they do.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
Obviously, our emergency preparedness and response specifically to a pandemic needs great focus at this time. However, we also need to spend time and energy on the intersection between social justice and public health. For example, racism is a public health issue. We need to learn how to better measure and study elements of social justice like racism to fully understand its impact on public health and effect change.