Student Profile: Erica Taylor  

Erica Taylor is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior whose research is dedicated towards improving the mental health and prenatal care of minority women living in low resource areas.

Ph.D. in Health Promotion

MPH, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health
BA, Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences

Bethesda, Maryland

What is your educational background?
I received my Master’s in Public Health from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education and my Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University in Medicine, Health, and Society with a minor in Spanish. My educational background has always been driven by my interest in working directly with communities with respect to health issues.

What research are you passionate about? How did you become involved in your field?
Over the past 5 years, my research interests have evolved to focus on: (a) the intersectionality of mental health and prenatal care in minority women living in low resource areas; (b) examining mental health implications of occupational stress in pregnant women; and (c) exploring stress reduction interventions guided by motivational interviewing in pregnant women. My research experience and training is in HIV medication adherence, motivational interviewing, palliative care, recruitment of hard to reach populations, and neurocognitive testing at Grady Ponce de Leon Clinic/ Emory Healthcare Facilities. I worked for the Living Well Study at Emory University School of Nursing. This is a randomized control trial that is determining whether Early Palliative Care and Motivational Interviewing can improve the health, healthcare costs, and quality of life of Grady Ponce de Leon Clinic patients living with AIDS over the course of a 13 month period. In addition to this study, I worked on the FitBrain Study through Emory University School of Nursing. I served as the onsite Clinical Research Coordinator for the FitBrain Project at the clinic. My main function in this study was to increase enrollment and facilitate the Motivational Interviewing intervention portion of study visits. I also have a background in cancer research through working in the Clinical Trials Office as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Emory University Winship Cancer Institute.

What exciting projects are you working on?
I am currently working on various research projects at the University of Georgia as a Graduate Assistant/Research Coordinator. These studies include tracking/reducing alcohol consumption using motivational interviewing in Veteran’s who have an HIV diagnosis at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, in addition to analyzing mental health survey data from Liberia. I am working under the guidance of Dr. Carolyn Lauckner, Dr. Nate Hansen, and Dr. Tamora Callands on these projects. I am interested in applying the motivational interviewing techniques used to promote HIV medication adherence, to examine its feasibility in reducing the effects of daily stress in minority pregnant women, and to document the occurrence of preterm birth outcomes. My academic experiences have shaped my desire to engage in clinical research in a manner that directly affects the populations with whom I work. The evolution of my academic interests have led my goals and aspirations to undertake additional work in community needs assessments and evaluation, as well as clinical research to find specific barriers to addressing health issues from the perspective of the target population and stakeholders. My diverse foundation in clinical research and experience in community development has significantly shaped the growth in my career in behavioral science and health education.

What attracted you to your graduate program at the College of Public Health?
I was attracted to the Health Promotion and Behavior graduate program at the College of Public Health mostly because of how comfortable I felt with the professors. Before coming to UGA, I had the opportunity to have lunch with all the professors in my program, as well as speak with each of them individually, which really sealed the deal for me. They immediately made me feel at home. This experience is what made me feel like pursuing a higher education with the guidance of this particular department’s professors. It was the right choice for me. All of the professors in my program have amazing projects that they are working on, which made me even more intrigued to join the program.

What has been your best experience at the College and UGA so far?
The best experience that I have had at UGA so far would have to be working on Dr. Lauckner’s TRAC Study. After working in clinical research for several years prior to pursuing my PhD, it was definitely an adjustment going back to school, however, being able to still engage in active research with Dr. Lauckner’s guidance has helped me to balance my interests. Working with the patients in the TRAC study reminds me every day of why I am pursuing a higher education in the public health realm. I enjoy working directly with people in order to promote behavioral changes and that is what completely fulfills me. Working within communities, through promoting translational research that is relatable to the average person is what I want out of my career and the TRAC Study is definitely a project that supports this goal of mine.

What achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?
I would have to say that the achievement that I am most proud of during my time here, has to be also working as the research coordinator for Dr. Lauckner on her TRAC Study. It has been completely fulfilling to work with her on such a unique project. This project has given me the opportunity to continue to work with patients who have an HIV diagnosis one-on-one with the help of videoconferencing technology and other phone applications, which has always been a part of my research background. This project in particular has helped me to continue to develop my research skills in terms of logistics and Dr. Lauckner has played an integral role in helping to guide me through this process. While also working with veteran patients who have a HIV diagnosis, this project has also helped me to sharpen my motivational interviewing skills, which will be a key technique used in my dissertation topic.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I plan to stay connected to academia through teaching, while still pursuing a career in industry. With my background in clinical research, I want to continue on that path, while also balancing that with mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students.

Posted on November 26, 2019.