Yuni Tang

Yuni Tang

Public health impacts every aspect of society, and it's a field that not only saves lives but also enhances the quality of life.

Briefly describe your current role as a public health practitioner.

I am self-identified as a new independent researcher focused on conducting research and managing projects related to traffic safety, particularly concerning the impact of substance use like alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. My work involves significant data analysis and the creation of education materials to enhance traffic safety. I also serve as a principle investigator or co-principle investigator on projects examining the efficacy of educational interventions for impaired driving and collaborate on multiple studies concerning traffic safety and substance use. This includes leveraging data from various sources to better understand traffic-related injuries and fatalities and developing strategies to address these public health issues. My role combines research, data analysis, project management and collaboration with various stakeholders to improve public health outcomes in the area of traffic safety.

Why did you choose WVU for your public health education?

I chose WVU because I knew the University has strong academic programs and multiple research opportunities. I knew some faculty were working on injury prevention, which aligns with my research and career goals.

How did WVU and your experiences in the School of Public Health prepare you to be a public health professional?

The curriculum covered a broad range of topics within epidemiology and public health, offering both theoretical knowledge and practical skills in areas like statistical analysis, research methodologies and public health prevention. Additionally, I did tons of research trainings and I had opportunities to work closely with excellent faculty members in the School of Public Health, which have enhanced my understanding of complex public health issues. Those trainings prepared me for independent research and leadership roles.

Tell us about your field placement experience or other hands-on experiences. 

During my Ph.D. journey, my goal was to be a principle investigator, and I was eager to get more research training. I feel privileged to have worked with some excellent faculty members, especially with my mentor and committee chair (Dr. Toni Rudisill) and my dissertation committee members (Drs. Christiaan Abildso, Christa Lilly and Erin Winstanley). During this process, I gained experience in managing surveys, data management and data analyses. They "forced" me to think more critically and trained me as an independent researcher.

Additionally, I had a chance to work closely with other faculty (Drs. Ruchi Bhandari and Gordon Smith) during my third and fourth year of the Ph.D. program, which built my minor research interest - substance use/substance use disorder.

What does it mean to you to be first-generation college student?

Being a first-generation college student is challenging but makes me independent.

How did being first-generation affect your college experience?

Being the first in my family to attend college, even get my Ph.D., can be a source of immense pride. I feel I have a strong sense of responsibility to succeed, not only to justify the sacrifices made by my family members but also to be a role model. Being a first-generation college student was also challenging since I navigated the complexities of college life without the guidance from my family members. However, I learned how to seek out and utilize support from my mentors, advisers and peer networks.

What advice would you give today’s public health students?

Having a broad skill set is important since public health is a multidisciplinary field, and developing skills in statistics, data analysis, epidemiology and communication can be highly beneficial. Staying informed about the latest developments and continuing to learn is important since the field is always evolving with new research, technologies and methodologies. Actively attending conferences, joining professional organizations and connecting with peers and mentors can provide support and guidance. It is definitely beneficial to build relationships within the field to open up opportunities for collaboration and career advancement.

What does public health mean to you?

For me, public health is a vital field that focuses on improving the health and well-being of people at the community levels, not the individual level like in the medical field. Public health impacts every aspect of society, and it's a field that not only saves lives but also enhances the quality of life, making it a critical and rewarding area of study and work.