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About Me

Action expresses priorities.” -Gandhi 

Background 

- I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, lived in eastern North Carolina for a decade, and currently reside in Richmond, VA.

- I am a doctoral student working on my PhD in Social and Behavioral Health. Before this, I earned my M.A. in Health Education and Promotion, my M.S. in Clinical/Counseling Psychology, and my B.A. in Psychology and premedical sciences.

Research

-In my various graduate programs I’ve done research on a lot of different health and mental health topics, as well as social and political issues (which is why, as you may have noticed, PublicHealthWatch covers so many different topics). A lot of my research interests and specialties overlap, but the majority are related to women’s health, social justice & health disparities, discrimination, and the intersection of politics, public policy, and health. Here are just a few examples:

Violence Against Women: If you spend much time on PublicHealthWatch, it won’t take you long to notice that I write a lot about violence against women (VAW), especially sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence; intimate partner violence; and social/cultural forces that perpetuate gender-based violence. The impact of VAW on women’s health and mental health is staggering: Just to give you an idea of the scale, VAW results in over 2 million injuries and more than $4 billion in direct medical costs each year in the U.S. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women in the U.S. and more than 1 in 3 worldwide will be a victim of intimate partner violence at some point during their lives, making VAW among the most prevalent and costly public health problems.

A few essential reads to get started:

Reproductive Health & Rights: Women’s ability to control their own reproductive health and outcomes is central to their economic and social wellbeing. Recent attacks on women’s access to birth control, abortion, and other reproductive health care services are not driven by any medical need or scientific evidence, but rather ideological and/or religious extremism. As a scientist, public health professional, and women’s health advocate, there are very few things that are more disturbing to me than the politicization of women’s reproductive health and health care — which is why I write about it a lot on PublicHealthWatch.

A few essential reads to get started:

Racial Disparities in Health: As I mentioned in a PublicHealthWatch article about racism and health in America, my upbringing had a major impact on my future research career. My mother is an epidemiologist, and her work on racial disparities and racism among pregnant black women profoundly shaped my views on health, and in a broader sense, my entire worldview. By definition, racial disparities in health — whether caused by individual experiences of racism and prejudice, institutional racism, systemic discrimination, or lingering effects of historical injustices — are both unnecessary and avoidable. Eliminating racism in all forms is central to achieving health equity, but our ability to do so relies on our willingness (as a public health community, and as a society) to respond to the contemporary influence of structural racism on health, health inequities, and research.

A few essential reads to get started:

Social Inequities: Health inequities according to people’s social standing are persisting, or even growing, in modern societies. Recent decades have revealed evidence of strong variations in life expectancy, both between countries and within them. This widening of social inequalities has developed despite considerable progress in medical science and an increase in health care spending. The reasons behind this are complex, and the implications considerable. Just like racial disparities, social inequities in health are largely preventable, yet exist nonetheless. Here on PublicHealthWatch, you’ll notice that I sometimes post articles about economic inequality, poverty, the minimum wage and the gender wage gap, social programs, and other related issues — the reason is that all of these issues are intricately and inextricably linked to the health of the population.

A few essential reads to get started:

Health Care & Public Health Policy: Americans have access to some of the best diagnostic technologies and cutting edge treatments — but we don’t have much to show for it. The U.S. spends twice as much on health care as other developed countries, yet has worse health outcomes. The question is why. In many ways, the United States has a “sick care” system and not a “health care” system. What this means is that very few resources are invested in preventing death and disease before they actually happen. However, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we are on the verge of a major paradigm shift in U.S. health care policy. Through a series of extensions of, and revisions to, the multiple laws that together comprise the federal legal framework for the U.S. health-care system, the Act establishes the basic legal protections that until now have been absent: a near-universal guarantee of access to affordable health insurance coverage, from birth through retirement. When fully implemented, the Act will cut the number of uninsured Americans by more than half. The law will result in health insurance coverage for about 94% of the American population, reducing the uninsured by 31 million people, and increasing Medicaid enrollment by 15 million beneficiaries. The passage of the ACA is a watershed in U.S. public health policy, representing an overdue and much needed shift to prevention. The impact of the new health care law on the wellbeing of the population cannot be overstated — and that’s why you’ll see so many articles on the ACA here on PublicHealthWatch.

A few essential reads to get started:

Clinical & Applied Experiences

-In addition to my research, I’ve also had the opportunity to work in some really unique settings. Here are a few of my most interesting clinical/applied experiences:

    • Health psychology intern at a cancer center
    • Psychosocial counselor in a genetic counseling center
    • Peer health counselor at a college student health center
    • Focus group leader at a college counseling center
    • Cancer survivorship counseling
    • Health education program planning
    • Sexual assault prevention program planning on college campuses

Personal

-5 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I am terrified of butterflies
  2. I still hold several high school records in long-distance (2 mile +) running
  3. I am afraid of heights but have been sky-diving
  4. I have a minor case of agoraphobia
  5. A few years ago, I decided to re-learn cursive. I carried a little notebook everywhere and practiced writing during any downtime, even when I was in my car at red lights. Now I am very proud of my good penmanship.

-I am a strong supporter of animal rights and believe that human welfare and animal welfare are intricately related. (See this NY Times Article and this report from the Department of Justice for more information about the intersection of animal cruelty and criminality). I love animals, and I truly don’t understand why or how anyone could be cruel to such amazing creatures.

-I am a firm believer in ‘RAKS’ (Random Acts of Kindness)

-My personal interests include walking/running/hiking outside, reading, writing, traveling (when I can), photography (despite my limited abilities) and being with my boyfriend, friends, and family (and of course, my awesome little dog).

-I live with chronic illness.

-I believe that we are all responsible for the wellbeing of humanity.

-I believe that addressing social injustice starts with challenging our individual belief systems, as well as the broader social systems that create inequality and provide the context to maintain it.

About PublicHealthWatch

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- Why I am writing this blog: First, because my research experiences in graduate school give me a rare opportunity to read and synthesize a lot of current evidence regarding public health trends, public health policy, and health disparities. Second, because I am concerned about recent sociopolitical trends and attitudes that have emerged in our country. We are all entitled to our own belief systems, whether political, moral, or religious; however, in recent years we have seen an increase in extreme belief systems impeding upon the progress of government, social welfare movements, and even public health initiatives. The most frightening aspect of the rise in extreme belief systems has been the denial of rigorous scientific evidence and the reliance on moral, religious, or other personal beliefs to make decisions about political and social actions that affect the welfare of others in our country and throughout the world. The aptly-named “War on Science” that has been waged by the extreme conservative movement over the past several years has provided countless examples of politicians who shamelessly denounce scientific evidence in favor of moral or religious values, resulting in uninformed decision-making and insular attitudes toward social problems. Thus, I write this blog to make the (evidence-based) connection between sociopolitical beliefs, trends, and actions and the associated public health consequences, and to challenge all of us to engage in more informed, critical discussions and analyses of the direct — and usually unequal — impact of public policy and political movements on the health of our nation.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” -Gandhi 

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