Play on Both Teams: Become a Public Health Pracademic (Part 2)

by Molly J. Gutilla, DrPH, MS

Public Health Pracademics will explore the intersection between academia and practice with an eye toward recognizing those already bridging this gap and encouraging others to embrace efforts to link science and practice.

How to Be a Pracademic
How to Be a Pracademic (part 2)

Pracademics can be found on campuses and in public health practice, yet work in distinct ways from pure academics or pure practitioners.  I engage in several specific actions to develop myself as a pracademic.  Like any type of training, these practices lead to continued refinement of skills and are the elements that distinguish a pracademic from a pure academic or pure practitioner:

Pracademics build and maintain relationships with both academics and practitioners:

Physically being present in both worlds is important to being a pracademic. I am fortunate to work in a college town with a school of public health and a vibrant community of practitioners. While it is not easy to get to or from campus, there is no substitute for personal communication. When I worked primarily in public health practice, I took time to attend lectures on campus and would frequently extend my visit to include a meal or beverage with academics. Now, while working in academia, I make it a priority to attend local Board of Health meetings, serve on funding review committees, attend local health-related coalition gatherings, and regularly socialize with my practitioner friends. The committed pracademic knows that taking the stairs down to the dance floor and up to the balcony is worth the effort required to gain perspective.

Pracademics write, read, speak and learn as pracademics:

Pracademics read and write both published, peer-review literature and grey literature as working in multiple worlds requires two orientations. Or, maybe at least 3 orientations – one practice focused, one academic focused, and a third view that integrates the two. Stories from public health practice are found in the “grey literature” such as blog posts, white papers, and news articles. Pracademics also attend a variety of conferences, both academic and practitioner-focused. As an epidemiologist, SER is a meaningful academic conference, while CSTE is rich with practitioners. This month I look forward to connecting with both academics and practitioners at APHA.

Pracademics create a network of other pracademics.

Pracademics seek out other pracademics. There is a saying that academics like to think about public health, practitioners like to do public health. Those who engage in both are some of the best working in our field. I am always seeking others who have an appreciation and a practice in both thinking and doing, and who challenge me in refining my own pracademic skills.

Through relationships and ongoing learning with academics, practitioners, and pracademics alike, we  will generate new, relevant knowledge and apply the knowledge to action to achieve important and ambitious public health goals. What actions do you take as a pracademic? I’d love to hear how you develop your skills and contribute to advancing public health. Contact me at

Molly Gutilla, DrPH, MS

Molly J. Gutilla, DrPH, MS, is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University, Colorado School of Public Health. She works to have her feet, head, and heart on the academic campus and immersed in public health practice. She has worked on campuses including The Ohio State University, Williams College and the University of Colorado. She also spends time in public health practice, working as a practitioner in both urban and rural local public health, with the state health department, and alongside the non-profit community in Colorado. Follow her on LinkedIn


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