Meet the Student Editors of the Northwestern Public Health Review

by Grace Bellinger, Margaret Walker, and Virginia Nowakowski

Students of Public Health: Voices & Profiles focuses on research projects and other contributions students are making to advance public health.

Student Voices — Words carry weight. From relaying the latest big data trends in medical research to telling refugees’ stories of struggle within the health care system, words have the power to inform and engage an audience. At the Northwestern Public Health Review (NPHR), we hope our words ultimately inspire actions to improve public health.

Students conceptualized the NPHR in 2013 as an outlet for individuals from many disciplines to communicate about a variety of public health topics. Currently, the NPHR is a student-run publication and accompanying blog. Both are common platforms for students, faculty, and working professionals from the greater Chicago area to share their public health perspectives, ideas, histories, and research. Our biennial print publications combine these different viewpoints to take a deeper dive into a single public health topic while our blog provides brief updates on public health developments as well as opinions on public health issues and initiatives. 

Creating a print issue is no small task. Roughly twice a year we develop themed publications with articles from a diverse set of contributors paired with breathtaking artwork from students in the University of Illinois at Chicago Biomedical Visualization (BVIS) Program. We begin by choosing a relevant or developing health topic – past examples include refugee health, public health across the lifespan, and the rise of data science. Our editors must then identify and solicit articles from a variety of content experts. For example, in our upcoming issue focused on the public health implications of allergies, we plan to feature cutting-edge epidemiological research about allergies, a discussion of economics and policy regarding allergy labels and medication access, as well as a piece detailing the science behind allergies. The next challenge for the NPHR team is to thoughtfully edit the articles for our larger public health audience. The variety of articles combined with our editors’ diverse perspectives from backgrounds in statistics, journalism, medicine, and science helps us develop a nuanced conversation about our chosen theme. While the pieces reflect different and exciting aspects of our topic, we make sure that they all clearly communicate the authors’ knowledge – as incoherent words lose their power to inform and engage. Our team supports each other using our variety of skillsets, from journalistic experience to graphic design skills to editing abilities to pull together the final publication. Lastly, we include accompanying artwork from our BVIS collaborators to further enhance our communication within the print issues.

As both the scientific community and public access most of their information online, we maintain a web-based blog in addition to our print publication. The nimble and ever-evolving companion poses many of the same challenges as the print edition with regards to clearly communicating public health knowledge. Our editors work closely with contributors who submit our weekly bulletin on recent original research (“Public Health in the News”) or create short opinion and perspective posts on topics they are passionate about. We have also faced the challenge of effectively reaching an online audience constantly distracted by countless interesting items on the Internet. In 2016, our blog underwent a transformation into a fully self-sufficient web-based communication platform which now allows us to better interact with other public health organizations who have re-tweeted, shared on Facebook, and featured our work in their e-mail based announcements, all improving our reach.

Throughout our time with the NPHR, we have found that our collective strength is in our collaboration. Our success has come from creatively collaborating with our contributors. Additionally, as we help people to clearly communicate, we have also learned how to better communicate ourselves. We know that our words carry weight for our audiences, and we hope that our publication and blog will be lasting sources of reliable, relevant, and thought-provoking knowledge to inform and engage the broader public health community. By disseminating diverse ideas in the field, we contribute to an enhanced understanding of health that can promote action and ultimately improve public health outcomes.

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Grace Bellinger (Co-Editor-in-Chief) is a PhD candidate in the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) graduate program. She obtained her BS in kinesiology and also a Master’s in motor control and behavior from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Outside her research on stroke rehabilitation, she enjoys singing, engaging the community, and teaching.



Margaret Walker (Co-Editor-in-Chief) is a dual MD/MPH student at Northwestern University and is interested in interpreting complex medical information for the public. She obtained her BS in computer science and molecular biology from MIT, where she also developed an interest in blogging. Beyond science, she enjoys reading (anything and everything), exploring Chicago, and biking along Lake Michigan.



Special thanks to Virginia Nowakowski for her help editing this feature. A recent graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Virginia is one of our talented editors and a current MPH student at Northwestern University. She enjoys everything at the intersection of health and communications.



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