March 12, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Master of public health in health promotion, education, and behavior (HPEB) students Sarah King and Lauren Hunt have been selected by their department as the first recipients of the Ann Cassady Endowed Fellowship Fund. Established by the family of Ann Cassady, who served as the HPEB business manager for 13 years before passing away in 2017, this fund honors Cassady’s life by providing financial support for the training, research and professional development of HPEB master’s degree students.
Selected to receive the $500 fellowship award in the fall semester of 2017, King is a second-year master’s student who briefly got to know Cassady during her first year in the program. “I only had the pleasure of knowing Ann Cassady for such a short time before her passing, but I understood her dedication in assuring HPEB students received proper support for opportunities that extended outside of the classroom, including data collection and analysis for research, practicum experiences, and attending various conference meetings,” says King. “I wanted to respect her memory by using this award toward the spread of innovation and research that she so heavily encouraged.”
Since joining her program, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has developed a passion for studying the built environment—sidewalks, trails, parks, etc.—and how it may impact physical activity levels within a specific population. During her time at the Arnold School, King has worked with campus partners to evaluate the walkability and bikeability of the Columbia campus, learn more about university members’ perceptions of the built environment, and determine what areas may be improved to encourage physical activity.
She has applied her classroom lessons to her roles as a graduate assistant for Healthy Carolina and as a research team member of the Built Environment and Community Health (BEACH) Lab. She also participated in the Graduate Civic Scholar program. “USC has allowed me to do just that as part of my graduate degree, and I cannot be more grateful as I now have the knowledge and skills needed to carry me through my future career,” she says.
After her May graduation, the former Livewell Greenville Fellow will pursue a position as program coordinator or manager at a public health organization and eventually a director, leading policy, system and environmental changes to promote healthier communities. “Public health is not a field of individual efforts, but instead one of partnerships,” says King. “Listen to what other members of your team or target population have to say, and be willing to adapt your own ideas and opinions in order to improve the health and wellbeing for those who need it most.”
Hunt, the recipient of the Ann Cassady Fellowship for the spring semester of 2018, is also a second-year student. Her interests focus on developing healthy communities through effective transportation and land use planning.
“I am passionate about developing pedestrian, bicycle and public transit strategies to increase the health of the communities in which I serve while also considering traffic-related injury prevention approaches,” says Hunt, who plans to use the Fellowship’s $500 stipend to present at the annual Transportation Research Board Conference in Washington D.C. “Because of these interests, I want to work in the transportation sector upon graduation and eventually pursue a doctorate in Urban Planning to further work on developing communities while also incorporating health.”
During a previous trip to the nation’s capital, Hunt had the opportunity to meet with T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and the first presidential appointee to the position with a public health background. “It was great to talk with her about our role as public health officials in the transportation sector and how we can work on improving health and safety for all in transportation,” Hunt says.
She also gained experience through an internship with Kittelson and Associates in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she worked with planners and engineers and learned how health can be integrated into transportation. Hunt’s favorite project involved creating a bus route in Palm Beach County Florida that incorporated a health impact analysis study along with the route design to ensure access to healthcare and healthy food sources along the route.
“If you do your background homework and realize what specific area you want to work in upon graduation, you will be able to tailor your program to ensure you are learning what will help you the most in your future career,” Hunt advises future students, who may not realize the number of contexts in which a public health professional can work. “One other tidbit is network truly equals net worth. Make sure when you are in school you make the most of your experience and create connections and mentors throughout your time in your program.”