Kierra Mitchell

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 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 do you want to do after graduation? What is your ultimate career goal?

Whenever I graduate, I’d like to move out of my small town and move to a big city. I would love to work in case management at a big hospital, and I want to be able to showcase patient navigation and its impact. I would also really like to work in women’s health or with cancer patients to help make a difference in their quality of life.

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.

What advice would you give to your freshman self?

Looking back to my freshman self, I would definitely say to look at your options when it comes to majors. I would definitely from the very beginning, first semester, get involved with many other clubs and organizations. There are over 450+ organizations here at WVU and getting involved with just one of those can steer you in a different direction that you wouldn’t have thought otherwise.

What will you always remember from your time at WVU?

I will always remember the connections I made, whether that was with students who are not yet students of the university while I was an ambassador or those I’ve met while being an RA. It would be overwhelming trying to manage on average 40 freshman girls. In a perfect world you would be able to connect with all of them. During my two years of being an RA, I was really able to help those freshmen find their purpose, feel connected to me, and find their voice here on campus. My goal was to shape their first year to the best of my ability. Moving to college can be a scary transition so the best feeling is seeing how much they evolve has young women from move-in day to finals week. I actually made a life-long best friend that was my resident last year. You never know what positive relationships you’ll make here on campus!  

What are you looking forward to most after graduation?

I’m looking forward to moving to a bigger city, somewhere I’ve always seen myself growing, and working in a big hospital. I’m excited to work with all the different departments and see how well they run together and how I’m able to fit in and make a difference.

What are some other activities you’ve been involved in?

I volunteer at Ruby Memorial Children’s Hospital in the Family Resource Center. I help families get anything they need, answer questions and connect them to different resources.

Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am super into all things beauty, lifestyle and fashion. In my free time I do a lot of research on social marketing (totally outside of my field, I know). I want to be a woman of many talents, which includes being at the forefront with patients all the way down to empowering women by showing them a lifestyle that’s simple but beautiful. With this deep passion that I’ve had for a long time, I’m also working on my own blog – stay tuned for that! Life’s too short to not follow your dreams! You never know unless you put yourself out there.