Diana Davidson

Diana Davidson

I learned that through public health I can use my passion for making a positive impact on communities by enhancing opportunities for them to make affordable and healthier lifestyle choices.

How would you describe public health?

Public health is everywhere, whether you can visibly see it or not. It shapes how we behave, interact and engage within our society and environment. It encompasses a broad range of activities aimed at preventing diseases, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities and individuals.

When did you know that you wanted to study public health?

Originally, I did not know public health was a major offering or what it was in general. I first received a B.A. in Sociology from WVU in 2022 as I was interested in how society and systems influence human behavior and interaction and impacts the choices we make daily. Overall, I began to learn how much I enjoyed learning and applying theory to real world problems. I finally had a personal experience that led me to the field of public health my junior year of college. I had the opportunity to research with Dr. Elizabeth Claydon through the WVU Research Apprenticeship Program and I knew from then on that I wanted to research the dynamic between human behavior and health behavior choices. I loved the research I conducted with Dr. Claydon, and I even was able to create a poster and present our research at the APHA student poster competition virtually in 2021! This small chain of events led to my drive to continue research and a desire to want to receive a master’s degree once I graduated. I learned that through public health I use my passion for making a positive impact on communities by enhancing opportunities for them to make affordable and healthier lifestyle choices, tailored to their cultural context.

How did you become involved in the research that was published by Truth Initiative?

As part of the MPH program curriculum, I was to complete an applied practicum experience the summer between the first and second year of the program. I choose to apply and work at Truth Initiative because of their renowned reputation for their anti-tobacco media campaigns and initiatives in the nonprofit world. I grew up watching their campaigns and viewing their media outlet messaging, which ultimately further instilled my decision to live tobacco and vape free. My internship lasted from May to August in which I participated in a vast number of activities from social media surveillance, policy database sets, coding and much more. The research I published through Truth Initiative wasn't initially planned; it stemmed from my initiative in bringing attention to a finding from an activity I was assigned. I noticed my TikTok feed had been tailored to what I was looking up and viewing so it started to flood my page with a bunch of vape ads, reviews and discreet shipping companies. I told my team, “hey, is this something you all are aware about,” and we were intrigued by the finding and wanted to explore it further.

The reason I am interested in researching tobacco control stems from growing up in a family of smokers. I knew it was a lifestyle I did not want to engage in, and I could not understand why would anyone engage with products that were known to cause harm. Further, substance use is an ongoing issue here in the United States and is important that research is being done to understand the foundation of the issue and how healthcare professionals can best address the issue at hand; this is especially true for healthcare professionals here in the state.

As a soon-to-be graduate, what advice would you give to your freshman self?

Don't be afraid to try new things and explore different interests. College is a time for self-discovery, so take advantage of clubs, organizations and classes that pique your curiosity. Lastly, take care of your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Make time for exercise, relaxation and activities that recharge you. You should not feel guilty for prioritizing yourself occasionally.

What are your plans following graduation?

Once I graduate in May I can be found interning again at Truth Initiative within the Schroeder Institute. I loved the work I accomplished there last year and want to continue keep researching and exploring my interests here.

What will you always remember from your time at WVU?

I will always remember the wonderful support and guidance I have received from the faculty and students in the WVU School of Public Health. I was surrounded by people who cared about nurturing my passions and would even tailor classroom assignments and lessons to the interests not only myself but the classroom. I had a cheerleader in every corner of the school, and I built relationships with faculty, staff and students that I will cherish as I go on with my career.

What are you looking forward to most after graduation? And what will you miss the most about WVU?

I most look forward to starting my career in Washington, D.C., and building a network with others in the public health sphere. What I will miss the most about WVU is the community I built within the School of Public Health and all the fun Delta Omega events I got to attend. Lastly, the passion, love and care that is embedded with not only the WVU community but the entirety of the state of West Virginia. Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer.

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