Kierra Mitchell

Graduated in May 2020 Kierra Mitchell

What I like the most about the public health program is how willing everyone is to help you extend your experience by providing so many opportunities.

What is your hometown?

Wheeling, W.Va.

What does public health mean to you?

In public health, we focus on prevention. One of the things that interests me the most is how diverse it is. You can go from case management to epidemiology to statistics to doing health promotion. You can make such an impact on individuals and communities.

Why did you choose to study Public Health at WVU?

When I first came to WVU, I wanted to major in nursing. But I wasn’t doing well in some of my classes, like chemistry, and I knew it would hurt future opportunities if I didn’t excel. Then, one of my friends told me about public health. At that time, I had no idea what public health was but I learned more about it and found out about the patient navigation area of emphasis. Once I switched my major, I found it was actually a lot more of what I wanted to do. I wasn’t in love the clinical aspect of nursing, and in public health I loved being able to have a better relationship with the patients and their families. So, I found that public health was a better fit for me. It helped me find my place and find exactly what I want to do.

I’m a HSTA grad, so I came to several camps at WVU while I was in high school. I just really fell in love with the atmosphere and how much there was to offer and how many things there were to get involved with. I just thought it would be a perfect fit for me.

As a first-generation college student, I didn’t have anybody to tell me what to expect when coming to college and choosing a major and how to really put yourself out there. But, it’s really given me the drive and push to show that anybody can do it.

Have any particular faculty members made an impact on you while at WVU?

A faculty member who has helped me so much is  Toni Morris. She has a background in nursing, but her focus now is patient navigation so she understands what it takes to truly succeed in the field. She cares so much about her students and has really been there for me. She helps me find the different resources I need, gives me advice and helps me be the best I can be.

What unique experiences have you had during your time at WVU?

I like how much there is to get involved with, whether it’s clubs or sports or if you want to be an advocate for something you’re really passionate about. Ever since my freshman year, I was always involved with community council or student hall associations and it really opened up a lot of opportunities. During my time as an RA, I’ve been to leadership conferences as a representative of WVU.

In the School of Public Health, I’m a Student Ambassador. It’s been an amazing experience being able to talk to prospective students and let them know that there’s something for everyone. It’s allowed me to be an advocate and show how much being in the public health major has changed my college experience.

Tell us about your field placement experience.

My field experience was at the Heart and Vascular Institute, particularly the heart failure clinic, at Ruby Memorial Hospital. I was shadowing a patient navigator and seeing how she plays a huge role to their multidisciplinary care team. I got to observe how she develops appointments, coordinates care plans, collaborates with physicians and other members of the team, and, my favorite, talks with patients to get a real connection. A lot people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes of a clinic such as the HVI. To keep a timely, effective, efficient and patient centered approach to care, it takes a lot of hard work. The health care field in general is a very complex system so patient education is one of my favorite aspects of this role. I got to also shadow the heart failure nurse and visit patient rooms. She goes through patient admissions and discharges, managing their cases within the system. She also curates a patient education packet that consists of Dos and Don’ts when it comes to heart failure, diagnosis explanations, signs and symptoms to watch out for and, most importantly, heart healthy food options and ones to avoid. All patients come from different backgrounds and walks of life, so understanding where they are on their own and building upon that is the best way I’ve learned to increase the patient’s quality of care. I love getting to put a face to a name and talk with them.

What would you tell future students about WVU and the School of Public Health?

What I like the most about the public health program is how willing everyone is to help you extend your experience by providing so many opportunities. I also really like the small class sizes. You have the opportunity to connect with your professors and they’re willing to help you with whatever you need to succeed.

It has really helped me narrow in on exactly what it is I want to do and what I’m passionate about, which is helping the community, having those one-on-one relationships and improving healthcare as a whole. Overall, it helped me find my place.

Why should someone choose WVU to study public health?

Public health has been wonderful to be involved in because no matter what your interests are or area of emphasis, you can find your perfect little niche within it. For example, with my area of emphasis, you don’t have to just stop with case management. During my job search I have found so many other job titles that still require the same qualifications because I have a Public Health background. This major is so broad, in a good way, and the job security is always there and needed. I plan on taking my degree and even moving up to hopefully one day have a management position for the clinic I work for.

Student Stories Video

Watch a video about Kierra's experience at WVU.