Student Profile: Emily Loedding

For doctoral student Emily Loedding, the first-hand experience she was able to attain pursuing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health promotion & behavior at the College of Public Health set the stage for her passion for public health, worksite wellness, and maternal and child health.

“I witnessed public health groundwork firsthand, and I knew I had found my calling…. Getting to witness how the material I covered in the classroom translated to real life was empowering,” she said.

Doctor of Philosophy in Health Promotion

Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion, College of Public Health, University of Georgia
Master of Public Health, College of Public Health, University of Georgia

Dawsonville, GA

What is your academic/professional background?

I began my education at the University of Georgia in 2016. I started college with little direction in what I wanted to pursue for my major and my career, until I took Health & Wellness. I fell in love with public health and everything it stands for – primary prevention, systematic understanding, and ultimately helping people. In college, I was also a member of a small, local nonprofit called (Fem)me. The organization was started by a group of UGA students who wanted to partner with local homeless shelters, schools, and other organizations to increase menstrual product access to the Athens community. I witnessed public health groundwork firsthand, and I knew I had found my calling. I began my master’s degree training in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2020. Getting to witness how the material I covered in the classroom translated to real life was empowering.

Why did you choose to pursue a Master of Public Health degree? Why UGA?

I was encouraged to pursue the master’s degree by several of my college professors, since I had a passion for public health. I wanted to deepen my understanding and expertise on the topics that I felt so passionate about. I chose to stay at UGA, because of the amazing connections and community I already had at the College of Public Health. The professors, my mentor, and the opportunities to work within the college were too amazing to pass up. I have met some of the most incredible people and professionals from my time at CPH. From my cohort members to my advisor, I felt comfortable and safe to explore new ideas.

What did you do for your MPH internship?

I participated in the applied research experience where I worked under Dr. Heather Padilla in the creation of my own research project, which compared breastfeeding policies and resources across a state university system. We worked together in developing a survey and interview guide. We sent out the survey to participants, analyzed the data, and worked to write the results into a manuscript format.

I really enjoy research and was excited about the opportunity to lead my own project and walk through each aspect of the research process. I learned about what gathering and analyzing research in the real-world really looks like. My time management skills were pushed by having to keep up with the rigor of research to complete my final paper and poster by the deadline. Participating in research has its challenges, however getting to meet with people and gain insight into their understandings was an incredible experience

What activities/achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?

I had the opportunity to assist Rachel McCardel, a fellow Ph.D. student, in writing and publishing two papers into academic journals during my time as an MPH student. I was incredibly proud of this accomplishment and grateful for the opportunity to work with Ms. McCardell on these projects, which explored barriers to maternal health support and implementation of health and wellness policies in the workplace. Additionally, working with Hannah Southall on the Healthier Together Georgia project as a graduate research assistant has been an amazing experience. Healthier Together is a is a High Obesity Prevention program funded by the CDC aimed at promoting nutrition and physical activity in Georgia counties with the highest burden of obesity. Working within Georgia communities across the state has widened my view on the impact health programs can make in underserved communities.

How has the pandemic impacted your educational experience at UGA and CPH?  

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely had an impact on my experience at UGA while pursuing my MPH. I began my graduate school work in the fall of 2020, so we began meeting completely online and have slowly overtime transitioned to in person and hybrid meetings. Transitioning to online school was challenging at first, but I felt the professors did an excellent job making the most of zoom classes and hybrid lectures.

However, I also had the opportunity to assist in the college’s effort with the Department of Public Health to create and distribute COVID-19 vaccination and flu shot infographics.

Walking through the pandemic and vaccine creation as a public health student was fascinating. Getting to engage in conversations around vaccine hesitancy, the reality of pandemic life change, and how we move forward from the mistakes that may have been made in pandemic response have helped me translate what I have learned in the classroom to real life. In a broader sense, being a public health student has expanded my world view, grown my compassion for diverse communities, and shown me how pursuing justice in the world through public health is one of my greatest passions.

What are your plans beyond graduation?

I am now working on completing my Ph.D. in health promotion and behavior here at CPH. I am passionate about worksite wellness, maternal and child health, and predominantly the intersection of these two topics. I hope to one day work in worksite wellness, as a professional evaluator, or somewhere in the academic and research fields. Wherever the opportunities lead, I will follow!

Posted September 22, 2022.