Recent JPHMP Intern Adds Up String of Successes in Public Health Communications
Johanzynn Gatewood, a recent graduate of the MPH program at University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professionals, has been awarded a health communications fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In August, she completed an extended internship with the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice where she took on a number of projects from assisting with social media outreach to designing infographics and developing our popular “Students of Public Health” series. Before she moves on to what is sure to be a successful professional life in public health, we asked if she would mind sharing her experiences with other students who might be considering careers in public health communications.
JPHMP Direct: Congratulations on your upcoming fellowship appointment at CDC. What will you be doing there?
Johanzynn Gatewood: Thank you! I will be an ORISE Health Communication Fellow in the Traveler’s Health Branch of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the CDC. I will be supporting the Communication and Education Team in content development of the branch’s web resources, media and social media outreach, evaluation of communication efforts and platforms, and supporting the Travelers’ Health emergency response campaign efforts.
JPHMP Direct: Tell us about your interest in public health communications. What experiences influenced your career path?
Johanzynn Gatewood: I became interested in health communication after taking a couple of public health courses during my undergraduate years. One of the topics covered in my courses was health literacy and that originally piqued my interest in health communication. At the time, I didn’t know that the field of health communication existed. As I began to learn more about public health principles and theories later in my graduate courses, I learned more about communication and behavior change, and then became even more interested in health communication after relevant internships — with JPHMP, for example.
JPHMP Direct: How did you hear about JPHMP? What aspects of your internship with us did you find most rewarding or helpful toward achieving your career goals?
Johanzynn Gatewood: I actually found JPHMP through persistent online searches for any health communication-related internships. Luckily, I found this amazing opportunity and it worked out because I could also do it remotely. It was a win-win situation for me. My internship with JPHMP was very rewarding because it gave me the opportunity to experiment and implement different communication strategies for the first time. I was able to use my creativity for things like producing infographics and social media posts, and develop communication skills that I would later use in other jobs and internships. For me, it was my first internship experience that catapulted me into the world of health communication.
JPHMP Direct: After you started your internship with us, you also undertook a second internship researching and writing articles for CNN health news online. Tell us about that experience. Did Dr. Sanjay Gupta offer any memorable advice? Was your internship at JPHMP instrumental in taking on that role in any way?
Johanzynn Gatewood: Well, it was definitely a busy semester for me. I interned with CNN Health in Atlanta and I mainly contributed digital stories and other content for CNN.com/health and conducted research for Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. This internship experience was different from JPHMP because it involved quite a bit of journalism – an area that I did not have a background in. However, my public health knowledge complemented my experience because I used what I learned from my graduate courses to analyze studies, make conclusions, and ask health experts the right questions. I will say it was weird, at first, passing Dr. Gupta in the hallway from time to time, but he is very humble and deeply respected (and loved!) by the writers and staff in the medical unit. One of the things I was repeatedly told in the unit was that it was more to my advantage for me to be coming from a public health background rather than a journalism one. They reasoned that you could easily teach someone how to write as you went along, but if you are an expert in a topic, it makes it easier to understand and write about.
JPHMP Direct: What advice do you have for other students interested in a career in public health communications?
Johanzynn Gatewood: I didn’t come to realize that health communication was my passion until much later into my public health education – after learning about the many different aspects of public health. I think, in general, public health students should explore their own passions and find how their passions can intersect with the bigger picture of public health. Public health can be found everywhere and encompasses many ecological levels to which we can contribute. For me, I was able to use my creativity in writing and design to contribute things like infographics and stories that can influence change and give others the information they need to make their own health decisions. At the end of the day, that’s what public health is all about – preventing disease and informing our population.
I think, in general, public health students should explore their own passions and find how their passions can intersect with the bigger picture of public health.
JPHMP Direct: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Johanzynn Gatewood: I have really enjoyed my time with JPHMP and appreciate everything that Dr. Moore and Sheryl have done for me. Most people don’t realize – I’ll admit I used to be one of them – but journals are crucial to the field of research. The research that is published in peer-review journals, like JPHMP, is what guides policy makers and public health practitioners to create informative policies and evidence-based interventions. In other words, don’t sleep on public health journals and always be aware of the latest research.
JPHMP Direct: Great advice. Thanks, Johanzynn, and best of luck.