“Public health is unique; there is the practice world and then there is the research world,” said Dr. Ellen Daley, professor in the Department of Community and Family Health. “We want to put those worlds closer together.”
Daley was appointed as associate dean of translational research and practice at the USF College of Public Health in July. She is associate director for women’s health in the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies and also serves as chair of the COPH’s Research Committee. She specializes in women and adolescent health, sexual education, STD prevention and contraceptive use.
In her role, Daley will focus on getting students better acquainted with both sides of public health—research and practice.
She said she wants students to walk away from their respective programs feeling equipped with the skills and ability to do their future jobs well.
“What we really need to do is have this synergy between the two where practice informs what research we do, and the research that we do informs practice in the same way,” she said.
Daley said the first cohort of students being exposed to this type of training are doctoral students from across all departments.
The students have started meeting for a weekly seminar to discuss the public health threat of the Zika virus with a goal of gaining cross disciplinary training on ways to address it.
“Even though someone may be getting their doctorate in epidemiology or in the community and family health focus area, they will understand the big picture of what public health does,” she said. “The idea of the cohort is to gain some understanding and greater respect for what other areas do to see the range of what public health does.”
Public health professionals will address the students at the seminar, exposing them to the ways they are focusing on Zika, and students will work on group projects to address an issue from all disciplines.
Daley said she plans to follow the cohorts for the entirely of their degree, four to five years, and evaluate what additional training may be needed to boost student success and preparedness for working in the field.
“It’s going to stretch everyone’s comfort level and help them develop respect for what their colleagues are doing, giving them a broader view of what public health does instead of just the one area they are going in to,” she said.
Daley said she wants the program to soon expand to other students in the college and plans to use a mentoring-down model approach, where doctoral students will mentor master’s students and master’s students eventually mentoring undergraduates.
“The idea is to create more opportunities for success, more research opportunities in interdisciplinary groups,” she said. “I want all students in the college to feel like they are welcome to join.”
Daley said details are being worked out on how students in the online programs will also be exposed to the translational research and practice approach.
She said that despite what concentration area a student is going into, one constant notion she commonly hears are the students’ desire to make a difference.
“I really do believe it’s meaningful if you feel like the work you’re doing is making a difference and people who are drawn to public health are definitely those type of people,” she said. “We are there in terms where our hearts and minds our, we just need a little structure to put them both together.”
While she is still early on in her new role, Daley said she looks forward to seeing how each student progresses during the course of four years.
“It’s a huge honor to me, because I see USF really as one of the emerging leadership schools in the country,” she said. “To be part of that leadership team is an amazing opportunity and Dean Petersen has a vision we can be proud of. I’m really proud to be a faculty member in the college and now to be able to give students even more opportunities so when they leave they are even more prepared, I consider it an enormous honor to be chosen.”
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health