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Profiles in Public Health

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Lisa Acuff

PhD, Behavioral and Social Science, Health Communication and Marketing

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health embraces a holistic view of health for all individuals and populations.

What inspired you to study to public health?

A passion for understanding the experiences of people living with chronic illnesses inspired me to study public health. Diabetes is a special area of interest for me. It impacts the well-being of individuals and populations and thus is a significant public health concern.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

Attending the American Diabetes Association’s Annual Scientific Sessions has been the single most rewarding and inspiring experience of my studies so far. I met notable researchers, shared my ideas, and learned new scientific evidence related to diabetes. The best part was meeting people who shared a passion for improving the lives of people impacted by diabetes.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

A background in science and statistics is very helpful!  Science and math were not my strong areas in high school, and I gravitated towards literature, art, and music. I have been blessed with exceptional mentors and instructors at my institution, and this has helped me gain necessary skills in scientific thinking and writing. There is still a place for arts-based research and creative thinking in public health, however, and I am determined to incorporate these aspects into my research of the experiences of people with chronic illnesses. I believe there are multiple ways of understanding and studying a phenomenon.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

Raising awareness of public health concerns is an important challenge. In most cases, I believe individuals and populations want to live healthy lifestyles but are limited by their present knowledge, resources, and circumstances. Raising awareness of public health concerns and the related social determinants of health is necessary to improving the health of all.

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