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Joy Barros, a Pensacola, Florida, native and graduate student pursing a doctorate in heath education/health promotion, has been named the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s inaugural Cramer Morgan Fellow.

joy barros

As a Cramer Morgan Fellow, Barros will work as a graduate assistant and complete her dissertation on the nonmedical use of prescription stimulants among college students. The fellowship provides full tuition and additional funding for travel related to research.

“It is quite an honor to be the first person to receive this fellowship,” Barros said. “The financial security it provides will allow me more time to focus on my work.”

The Cramer Morgan Fellowship is funded through the Kathryn Cramer Morgan Memorial Scholarship, an endowed fund created by Cramer Morgan’s husband after her death in 1990 as a way to memorialize and honor her life and passion for improving education systems through enhanced teaching and scholarship. Cramer Morgan served as administrative assistant to UAB’s second president, S. Richardson Hill Jr. The Morgans were also active participants in university life for more than four decades.

“Joy Barros represents the best and brightest among our students,” said Deborah Voltz, Ed.D., dean of the UAB School of Education“ Naming her as our first Cramer Morgan Fellow helps highlight not only the quality of our students, but also the important role our alumni and other supporters play in our ability to offer scholarships and graduate fellowships. It’s their generosity that enables us to attract promising students like Joy to our programs.”

Barros’ dissertation will focus on why some college students choose to use prescription stimulants while others abstain. She hopes to use the data collected to improve drug prevention and intervention programs on college campuses.

Barros received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida and a master’s degree at Texas A&M University. The uniqueness of UAB’s health education/health promotion program led her to Birmingham after deciding not to go to medical school.

The health education/health promotion doctoral program is offered jointly through the UAB School of Education’s Department of Human Studies, the UAB School of Public Health and the University of Alabama College of Human Environmental Sciences. The program was recognized as one of the top health education and health promotion degree programs in the United States in a study published in the Journal of Health Education. Students in the program are able to draw upon the expertise of diverse faculty and the resources of two major academic institutions as they proceed through rigorous coursework and immersive practical experiences. They learn theories and research methods from the social and behavioral sciences to develop and evaluate programs that encourage healthy behaviors, assist faculty in research projects, and produce their own original research.

“I wanted to find a doctoral program related to public health where I could educate students about health,” Barros said. “I like the flexibility UAB offers. I get to decide what I want to take, and I get to build my own degree plan. We have some required courses, but the program is built in such a way that you can choose what you want to focus on and what you want your dissertation to be. Also, the faculty is very supportive as far as helping you get to where you want to go.”

Under the guidance of Associate Professor Laura Forbes, Ph.D., Barros has participated in health fairs at local high schools and helped lead human papillomavirus awareness campaigns on UAB’s campus. She has also assisted Forbes in administering a nationwide survey known as the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment.

“I am most impressed by Joy’s poise, maturity and self-motivation to learn higher-order research skills,” Forbes said. “Joy is constantly pursuing career advancement opportunities and writing scholarly works, and is very self-directed with independent projects.”

After earning her doctorate, Barros plans to pursue a career in academia. She will expand her research related to the health of college students to include women’s health, health disparities and equity, and cultural competence. She hopes to teach students about what they can do to help themselves and their communities lead healthier lives.

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