GS: Where are you from?
GH: I moved to Birmingham from West Palm Beach, Florida, I was born and raised in Mississippi.
GS: What degree will you receive and when?
GH: I will receive a PhD in Public Health –Environmental Health Sciences, May 2010.
GS: What is your research?
GH: My research deals with something called “population monitoring.” Population Monitoring is a new area of disaster preparedness and response that involves efforts to check people’s health and do appropriate follow-up after a large-scale radiological contamination incident. It requires both immediate and long-term response efforts. I will be looking at some of the challenges population monitoring poses for local and state health departments. These are the people who will take on this responsibility following a disaster event.
GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
GH: I decided to pursue a PhD in public health primarily due to my public health background as a public health professional. UAB has one of the best Public Health schools in the country. I was drawn to the Department of Environmental Health Sciences due to its diversity in research opportunities. Research topics within the department range from environmental toxicology to industrial hygiene to environmental disasters and management. The opportunities are endless!
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
GH: I was awarded the Comprehensive Minority Faculty and Student Diversity Program (CMFSDP) Doctoral Fellowship for 2005 – 2008 by the Office of Equity and Diversity; I was recently awarded the Pilot/Small Projects Training Award, a research grant provided by the Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education Resource Center (ERC) for my dissertation topic 2008- 2009; I am currently a fellow for the Association for Schools of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Prevention Research Centers (ASPH/CDC/PRC) 2008 - 2010. This fellowship is funded by the CDC and is awarded annually to only four minority doctoral students nationwide. Students must attend schools with Prevention Research Centers. There are currently 33 PRCs located across the nation; I was awarded the H. Kenneth Dillon Scholarship for tuition by the UAB Ryals School of Public Health for 2008- 2009 academic year; I have also been selected by the Office of Equity and Diversity as one of two UAB nominees for the 2008 Minority Access, Inc. National Role Model Conference.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
GH: This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the first Summer Institute of the Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety, which is a part of the Department of EHS. Eleven undergraduate students from universities across the southeast gathered here at UAB for a week of occupational safety and health workshops. We had lectures, group activities, field trips and activities all related to occupation safety and health. Everyone had such a great time and I learned a lot as well!
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
GH: Of course the faculty and staff members of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences have been extremely influential in my growth while here at UAB. Everyone, especially my advisor Dr. Steven Becker, has been so devoted to my educational development. I would have to say that outside of my degree program, one of my greatest influences would also be Dr. Louis Dale, VP Office of Equity and Diversity. Dr. Dale awarded me the CMFSDP fellowship and has been instrumental in exposing me to different leadership development programs. His door is always open for his students and he really cares about each and every one of us.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
GH: My family is my motivation. I am the first in my family to pursue a PhD. They are very supportive of my educational choices and extremely proud of my accomplishments.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
GH: After graduation I would like to work with a federal agency as a policy analyst and eventually return to academia.
Gwendolyn’s advice for other graduate students:
My advice would be to stay focused and believe in your abilities. It’s a long, hard road to achieving an advanced graduate degree.