Can you share the most meaningful award or achievement you received during your time, and why it was so important to you?
I think that the achievement that meant the most to me was the work I was able to do during the Covid-19 pandemic. I served as the campus infection preventionist with Screen, Test & Protect, which meant visiting campus spaces and working with faculty, staff, and students to help them continue their work and activities in the safest way possible. At that point, I had been at UF for almost 20 years, but it amazed me how much I didn’t know about the university and all it has to offer. I got to see first-hand how hard everyone at UF was working to keep the university running during a public health crisis. It was also so rewarding to be able to assist with vaccine clinics on campus and in the community.
Describe your favorite work memory from your time at UF?
A favorite early memory is when I first taught the Principles of Epidemiology course in the fall of 2010. During the first few weeks of class, I was still working in Infection Control at UF Health Shands and had to work all day and then lecture in the evening, which was very tiring. But the students were so enthusiastic and engaged that it made that challenge so much easier, and I really enjoyed that experience.
Were there any mentors in the Epidemiology department who made an impact on you, and what lessons did you learn from them?
Dr. Mary Peoples-Sheps, who is the college’s former Senior Associate Dean for Public Health, has been a mentor to me since I began in Epidemiology. She was the interim chair in addition to being a dean at that time, and she gave me the opportunity to help write a grant for the Rural South Public Health Training Center. I learned so much from her through that experience and have always been able to go to her for career advice. She also provided me with valuable mentorship as I led the college through the most recent CEPH reaccreditation process in 2021. Dr. Robert Cook is my faculty mentor in epidemiology, and he is so great at encouraging me to “think big” and pursue my ideas.
What advice would you give to your students?
I would advise students to connect with other people wherever and whenever they can. I’ve had informal chats with people on planes and in stores or elevators that have opened me to new ideas and made me consider new opportunities. The best advice you get in life may come from someone whose name you never knew.
What did you enjoy most about teaching epidemiology students at UF?
Our epidemiology students are amazing people who want to make our world a better, healthier place. They really care about our populations and work hard to identify ways to improve knowledge and interventions and address health disparities. I think that their high levels of curiosity and interest are what makes teaching them so enjoyable.