Bull from Down Under focuses on those who are disabled and medically underserved

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Angela Makris, a December USF College of Public Health (COPH) grad who received her MPH with a concentration in social marketing, says that from the time she was a child, she knew she always wanted to help people.

And she hasn’t stopped since.

Born in Sydney, Australia, to Greek parents, Makris got her BA in communications from Australia’s Macquarie University and later earned a master’s in marketing management.

She started out her public health career in Australia, working as a marketing manager for a water association that advocated for sustainable drinking habits in Sydney. She followed that up with a series of jobs, the first working at an advertising agency promoting public health and behavior change issues, then a government agency that focused on preventing child abuse and getting kids into foster care. Curious about her heritage, she wound up in Greece, working in health communications and medication compliance.

Makris moved to Tampa in 2015 with her husband, who had a business here. She knew if she wanted to continue working in a public health capacity, she would have to learn how the American health care system works.

She decided to go back to school as a “mature student” and the USF COPH, she said, was an obvious choice.

“Even though I did my coursework online, one of the main reasons I chose USF was because it was local. When it comes to health care, every state has its own set of rules and funding issues,” Makris said. “I knew that if I was going to live and work in Florida, I’d have to learn how the Florida system operates.”

Another reason the USF COPH was a top pick was its social marketing program, led by Dr. Carol Bryant (now retired). “I had been following her work as a subscriber to the Social Marketing Quarterly for many years,” Makris said. “I was so excited to have her as a teacher.”

Makris, in fact, was the recipient of the inaugural Carol A. Bryant Social Marketing Scholarship for outstanding academic achievement and leadership within social marketing.

Angela Makris, MPH, stands with the poster she presented at this year’s European Social Marketing Conference, held in Belgium. “Having my poster accepted was recognition of all the work and effort that I have put into my degree and the support given to me by the COPH faculty,” the recent grad said. (Photo courtesy of Makris)

Even though there wasn’t a language barrier, Makris—who works at the COPH as a grad assistant in the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health—does note that cultural differences did, at times, make her work challenging.

“In addition to some spelling differences [colour vs. color, recognise vs. recognize], which gave me problems when I was proofreading, Australia doesn’t really focus on race,” she explained. “We deal with people’s ethnic backgrounds. So a lot of my thinking is shaped this way, and it is in stark contrast to the very rigid race construct that exists here when looking at solving public health problems.”

Makris hopes to continue her public health education with a PhD from the USF COPH. “I want to continue my work in social marketing and research the health disparities of people with disabilities. Ultimately I’d like to develop public health curriculums that decrease stigma for people with disabilities, who are the largest minority group in the U.S. I want to help people treat others better and be better advocates for themselves and their health.”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health