Graduate student Sharonda Lovett is a 21st century scholar

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USF College of Public Health graduate student Sharonda Lovett was awarded the Society for Public Health Education’s (SOPHE) 21st Century Student Scholarship. Through SOPHE’s Campaign for the 21st Century: Building SOPHE’s Future, the scholarship supports full-time undergraduate and graduate students interested in attending SOPHE’s fall summit or annual spring conference.

To receive the scholarship, students must be a member in good standing within the national chapter of SOPHE and sponsored by a faculty member. To date, the campaign has funded more than 120 scholarships and provides up to 21 scholarships each year for national/chapter members.

MPH student Sharonda Lovett (Photo courtesy of Lovett)
MPH student Sharonda Lovett (Photo courtesy of Lovett)

“I was excited and surprised when I received the scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship is to build a strong pipeline of public health scholars across the country and further develop their skillset to address public health challenges,” she said. “It meant a lot to be recognized for the work I have done.”

As part of the scholarship’s award, recipients are able to attend SOPHE’s three-day Annual Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC, that allows public health professionals and students to engage in effective advocacy for a common agenda at the national, state, or local level. Following the summit, attendees are encouraged to build upon some of the advocacy skills discussed during the summit and apply them to projects in their own community.

Sharonda Lovett with SOPHE President-Elect Dr. Cam Escoffery. (Photo courtesy of Lovett)
Sharonda Lovett with SOPHE President-Elect Dr. Cam Escoffery. (Photo courtesy of Lovett)

This year’s summit was titled, “Championing Health for Vulnerable Populations.”

As an MPH student pursing concentrations in epidemiology and maternal and child health with interests in family violence and reproductive health, Lovett said being able to attend the summit gave her insight into how she could make an impact with her research. Attending the summit also allowed her to network with public health leaders in her field of study and gain a deeper understanding about how law, health policies and public health go hand in hand.

“One of the most important concepts I learned (or was reminded of) during the advocacy summit is that the law serves as a framework to understand population health,” she said. “The law, in it of itself, is a social determinant of health and should be treated as a mechanism for the distribution of health and well-being.”

Sharonda Lovett (first row center) with other 21st Century Student Scholarship winners at SOPHE’s 21st Annual Advocacy Summit. (Photo courtesy of Lovett)
Sharonda Lovett (first row center) with other 21st Century Student Scholarship winners at SOPHE’s 21st Annual Advocacy Summit. (Photo courtesy of Lovett)

As a research and education officer for USF’s Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO), Lovett was able to connect with COPH alumna, Dr. Linsey Grove, at the advocacy summit and invite her to speak at an advocacy seminar MCHSO is hosting in mid-April.

This seminar will reflect several concepts discussed in Grove’s presentation at the advocacy summit, which provided attendees the opportunity to identify differences between advocacy and lobby initiatives as well as explain advocacy collaboration through a case study about comprehensive sex education.

Lovett said that it was because of COPH’s Dr. Anna Armstrong, assistant professor, encouragement to get more involved in SOPHE that she applied for the scholarship opportunity.

“I had been looking to become a more active member of SOPHE for quite some time. It was because of Dr. Armstrong’s encouragement that I became more involved and applied for the scholarship,” she said. “I kept her in the loop and she was very excited to see and hear more about what I learned.”

Armstrong herself said she is proud of what Lovett has accomplished.

“Sharonda is well deserving of this scholarship and I remember when she approached me to ask for more information I was thrilled to support her application,” Armstrong said. “The opportunity to attend SOPHE’s Annual Advocacy Summit fits perfectly with Sharonda’s goal-oriented approach to ensuring she has the skills and acumen to truly be a 21st Century Scholar in the field of public health.”  

Lovett is set to graduate in Fall 2020 and hopes to pursue a doctoral degree, specifically focused on reproductive health and epidemiology. Her ultimate goal is to continue her research and work as a maternal and child health epidemiologist at either a nonprofit organization or research institution.

She said that receiving this scholarship and being able to attend the advocacy summit has helped her move closer to her goals and learn more about diversity in the public health workforce.

“It opened my eyes to learning more about career paths I could pursue in the future” Lovett said. “There are many opportunities in public health, so hearing about how some of the attendees’ careers have evolved over time has been a very rewarding experience.”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health