PhD student expands the COPH’s reach into Greece

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USF College of Public Health (COPH) students often get the chance to travel all around the world to learn from a diverse set of instructors and students in other countries. However, PhD student Angela Makris, who has shifted gears into academia after 25 years of working in the private sector, was actually the one teaching when she embarked upon her trip abroad. Makris, who has a concentration in Community and Family Health with plans on graduating in 2023, previously worked as a marketing manager in Greece, so she jumped at the opportunity to travel and give back to a community and nation near and dear to her heart.

“The feeling was quite wonderful,” said Makris. “I had no idea when I left five years ago that I would be back in Greece as a co-leader in a workshop on social marketing.”

Makris, whose research is focused on social marketing approaches for health behavior change, recently had the opportunity to travel to the Greek municipality of Trikala in order to initiate something that Greece had never experienced: a social marketing conference/workshop. The venture was supported by Trikala, one of the more innovative areas of Greece, along with the European Social Marketing Association, which is an organization that aims to connect social marketers from around Europe and initiate collaboration among them. The workshop was aimed at building knowledge on a citizen-driven public health initiative to ban smoking indoors.

“As simple as this may sound, Greece has a long history of broad health communication strategies where there was minimal stakeholder engagement and no concrete evaluation tools used to measure intervention success,” said Makris. “The workshop aimed to provide tools on how to engage stakeholders and how to measure the effect of an intervention.”

Angela Makris recently led Greece’s first-ever social marketing workshop in the municipality of Trikala. (Photo courtesy of Makris)

The workshop attempted to give attendees a better understanding of the fears, needs, motivations and obstacles that people nowadays face while trying to live a healthy lifestyle or adopt new health behaviors.

“From the interaction I had with the attendees, it was a success. It felt like they gained an understanding of the significance of segmenting a population and targeting an intervention to get the most value out of it,” said Makris.

In addition to the workshop, Makris was also given the opportunity to speak at the Mindspark 2020 conference, an event in Greece that brought together a unique collection of innovative speakers and academics in the fields of marketing and entrepreneurship. She was invited to interact with others on a panel in which topics such as behavioral theories and social norms were discussed, which she described as an enriching personal and professional experience.

“I was the only woman on the panel, and half of those on the panel were like me—professionals who were born overseas to Greek parents but who decided come to Greece to give back to a culture and heritage that shaped them,” said Makris. “I felt very fortunate to be able share how my non-linear career trajectory has many benefits. It allowed me to see the significance and the magnitude of public health and focus on vulnerable populations.”

Makris discussing a wide range of public health topics at the Mindspark 2020 conference. (Photo courtesy of Makris)

Makris has made it known that her work in Greece is far from done. She is currently co-authoring a Greek book on social marketing and is continuing to serve on the committee for The European Social Marketing Conference, which is scheduled to take place in Greece this coming October. She also plans to lead another social marketing workshop at that conference and will be taking part in a symposium on disability studies in Greece.

“There is so much that can still be done, and I am thankful for the education, academic mentors and opportunities that the COPH provides me so I can get a PhD and make a difference both in the United States and Greece,” said Makris.

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health