USF College of Public Health alumna Darcy Ravndal was a science teacher at Middleton (now Ferrell) Middle School in Tampa, Fla. when she was introduced to the field of public health.
“One of my first students was the son of Dr. Jeannine Coreil, who was a professor at the COPH. I began reading about her research on filariasis in Haiti and knew that public health was my passion,” Ravndal said.
Having received her undergraduate degree from USF in education in 1996, Ravndal decided to look into the COPH for her MPH degree. After meeting and learning more about the work of Coreil, Dr. Karen Liller and Dr. Kay Perrin, Ravndal knew that the COPH was a great fit for her.
As a teacher, Ravndal said she was able to see first-hand how community, family and student health is directly tied to academic growth and performance. Many of her students at both Ferrell Middle and Hillsborough High Schools struggled with enormous health and social obstacles. This led Ravndal to pursue her studies in the Department of Community and Family Health.
After completing her degree in 2001, Ravndal worked at the USF Center for Biological Defense (CBD) as an education and outreach coordinator where she met and was inspired by Dr. Jacqueline Cattani, affiliate professor in the COPH’s Department of Global Health and director of the CBD.
“Her energy, ideas and stories have shaped my worldview and influenced every aspect of my professional life,” Ravndal said. “She has been a huge mentor for me — I could not have done any of it without her! Working with her while at the CBD really shaped my path.”
Ravndal said she was grateful for her time at the CBD. It connected her to Dr. Cattani and many other health professionals that she still collaborates with as often as she can.
“It was an amazing first public health experience because it was diverse in its content and responsibilities,” she said. “Biological defense research and education was (and is) a quickly evolving field, so I learned a lot while at the CBD.”
She later attended John Hopkins University and earned her BSN in nursing in 2008 and then her MSN in pediatric primary care in 2009.
Ravndal said she had quickly learned that a clinical degree is a huge complement to public health and that nursing has allowed her to more directly utilize her public health skills in a clinical setting. Currently, Ravndal is a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Edgewater High School Health Center in Orlando ensuring that it meets the needs of the families who utilize it.
“The school health model is an incredibly effective blend of medicine and public health. The health centers are grant-funded through a wide variety of sources, so I am grateful to be able to spend my time making sure kids are healthy, performing sports physical exams so they can stay active, and educating them about a myriad of health and safety issues that affect them daily,” Ravndal said.
She believes that health care in a high school is a great way to reach an often-overlooked population and is a unique setup that allows for true delivery of health and wellness to many children and their families.
“Most days I leave my clinic feeling as though I was able to make an impact that could change the direction of a young person’s life,” she said.
Staying connected to the CBD, Ravndal is also a program coordinator for an education program through the Florida Department of Health Bureau of Public Health Laboratories. The program aims to teach first responders how to safely and effectively collect an environmental sample for testing at one of the state laboratories.
“I cannot imagine being very effective in my work on a day-to-day basis without my background in public health,” she said.
Fast Five for COPH Alumni:
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
A trapeze artist.
Where would we find you on the weekend?
On my bike, on a trail, cooking, or at a soccer field (watching my children play).
What is the last book you read?
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by J.K. Rowling.
What superpower would you like to have?
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
“The Hundred Foot Journey”.
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health
Tags: Darcy Ravndal, Department of Community and Family Health, Department of Global Health, Florida Department of Health Bureau of Public Health Laboratories, k-12 education, Karen Liller, Kay Perrin, nurse practitioner, nursing, pediatric primary care, school health model, USF Center for Biological Defense