Johanzynn Gatewood, an MPH graduate of the College of Public Health, recently published the article “Social Media in Public Health: Strategies to Distill, Package, and Disseminate Public Health Research” in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. Learn more about her journey in the MPH program and her flourishing career as a Health Communications Specialist.
What first prompted your interest in public health?
My interest in public health stemmed from interests in medical anthropology and global health. During undergrad, I switched my major to anthropology and took some global health and medical anthropology courses and became interested in how culture could affect patient care decisions. I actually didn’t know what public health was until I did my minor in health disparities and began to understand the intersectionality of culture, communication, and other social and behavioral factors that affected population health.
What was your concentration/specialization and when did you graduate?
My concentration was Social and Behavioral Sciences (shout-out to SBS!) and I graduated in May 2017.
What did you study in your undergraduate career prior to beginning the MPH program?
Anthropology with a minor in Health Disparities
What advice do you have to someone who is interested in this program or someone who is just starting out in this program?
What I love about public health is the diversity of the field. It’s hard not to find something you’re passionate about that can’t be related to public health. Whether it’s fostering healthy lifestyles or environments, researching diseases that affect vulnerable populations, or investigating the next big global outbreak, there are plenty of opportunities in the field to make your own difference. My advice is to take your passions and turn them into a public health career.
What was the best part of the MPH program and your favorite memory while you were enrolled?
The best part, for me, was learning topics that I was actually interested in.
How was the transition from school to the work force, and where have you been working?
I had a fellowship opportunity after I graduated, so I think that really helped the transition from school to the workforce. As a fellow, it was okay that you didn’t know absolutely everything there is to know about public health and you could develop your expertise as you were learning. Right now, I work as a health communications specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Do you feel the MPH program has helped you in your career thus far, and how?
Definitely! The SBS program, specifically, prepared me as a public health professional. I got a range of experience and exposure to things that I currently do in my job now, from developing campaigns to grant writing to developing logic models. And it was also the professors who were invested in your time in the program and your career, like Dr. Mark Hart, for example, that really made the difference.
What does your day to day look like at the CDC, and how does your job allow for opportunities in research?
Everyday is different, and that’s what I really like about what I do. I work on various communication campaigns, draft social media, gather partners, etc.
For students interested in an internship, fellowship, or job at the CDC, what would you advise?
Tell us a bit about what your recent publication is about and the research process involved.
This publication actually came out of an internship I was doing while in the MPH program. I interned for the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice as a communications intern and during my time there I learned about the publication process. The editorial team was interested in doing a best practices brief, so I volunteered to take the lead and that’s how it came into fruition. This brief is about how the journal developed their online presence through a blog and social media to disseminate their journal articles and expand their reach. Our hope is that other public health organizations can learn from our lessons as they develop their online presence.
From development to publication, the process took about a year. We were a team of four plus our advisor, Dr. Justin Moore, and this was something we all were working on outside our tour of duties.