A passionate advocate for public health, Arezoo Risman (MPH ’11) has worked as a health communications specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the past 10 years, translating the CDC’s scientific findings to audiences around the world. Risman was recognized as one of UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 – a select group of young alumni who are leaders in their chosen fields and professions.
Senior Health Communications Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Author/Co-Founder, Helping Kids Heal, LLC
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology (Emory University, 2010)
Master of Public Health, Health Management and Policy (University of Georgia, 2011)
Master of Business Administration (Georgia State University, 2015)
Project Management Certified (Georgia State University, 2016)
Lean Six Sigma Certified- Greenbelt (Georgia Tech University, 2016)
GRADUATION YEAR: 2011 from UGA
YOUR HOME: Atlanta, Georgia
HOMETOWN: Tehran, Iran
Why did you choose to study at UGA College of Public Health? How did you know you belonged at UGA CPH?
I always wanted to be part of a big school. After visiting the campus in Athens, I instantly felt like I was part of a big family with the same goals, visions, and drive. I knew this was where I wanted to pursue my graduate education alongside some of the most talented individuals nationwide who soon would become my future colleagues.
What’s your favorite UGA CPH memory?
I’ll never forget the first day of orientation. I had made some amazing friends that morning, and I offered to drive everyone to lunch. The parking deck was so big and new to me that when we got there, I completely forgot where I parked earlier in the day! Fortunately, with the help of my new friends—and a car alarm—we laughed so hard across every level of the parking deck in an unforgettable bonding activity in search of my car. Talk about a first impression!
What made you choose this profession?
I always knew I wanted to be in the healthcare industry, but just didn’t know what. Initially I thought the only career I could have in healthcare was to be a physician, but deep down I knew I craved something on a more global spectrum.
When I discovered the world of public health and how it promotes the health and wellbeing of people and their communities from a preventative scope, it instantly was so much more alluring to me. I love helping people by nature, so knowing my efforts could reach millions across the world instead of just helping people one-on-one like traditional medicine, I knew it was the right fit for me.
Where do you work today and what do you do?
I currently work in CDC’s Office of the Chief Operating Officer, as a business account manager and office lead for internal emergency communications in Atlanta, Georgia.
What do you find most rewarding about your career working in public health?
I love waking up in the morning knowing that my agency works 24/7 to protect the health and safety of the American people. The CDC’s prestige is so well known that it is such an honor to not only just work here, but to also have some of the most intelligent people of the world as your colleagues. Truly very humbling.
What additional activities and causes do you enjoy dedicating your time to?
Outside of CDC, I recently founded Helping Kids Heal, LLC. Dedicated to children going through childhood trauma, this book series written by a team of experts hopes to be the conversation starter for children and concerned adults who wish to start a tough conversation. Our hope is to bring peace, comfort, and healing for children who might be going through a tough time.
In my spare time, I love spending quality time with family and friends, traveling, and practicing mindfulness and meditation through yoga.
How has your UGA CPH education contributed to your success? What makes alumni of UGA CPH unique?
The fundamental knowledge of public health received at UGA CPH has been invaluable throughout my career. CPH alumni are unique because we have been trained to know the different dimensions of public health, and we come out of our graduate studies truly understanding how everything in public health is all-interconnected. Whether it is the epidemiologist on the field, the scientist in the lab, the lobbyist in Washington, or the communicator in the newsroom—we all come together as one with one shared goal: preventing the spread of disease.
What advice do you have for students and recent graduates?
I would tell students and recent graduates to take some time to do some introspective reflections to see what career would best suit you before jumping into something you “think” is best for you.
I remember as a student looking at all the career options and thinking, these are all so different how can I ever decide? It truly wasn’t until I spent some time shadowing others and being part of the industry before really knowing that public health was the field for me. Don’t allow salaries to be the influencing factor on your decision—be sure to pick the career that is right for you based on the industry you want to be in, the type of work-life balance you would want to have, and the kind of legacy you want to be known for. Ultimately you want to make sure you wake up every morning excited for the day, and ready to make the most of it.
Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of UGA College of Public Health magazine.
Posted on November 27, 2019.