Student Profile: Kennedi Clemons

As a health promotion major, Kennedi Clemons has gained a solid foundation in the various perspectives she feels are essential to effecting change in public health and healthcare. Now a Class of 2024 graduate, she is excited to apply experience she’s gained in the classroom, in the field, and in the community to a career in the field of medicine.

“I firmly believe that every aspiring healthcare practitioner should have received adequate education regarding public health principles to effectively serve their community,” she said.

B.S. in Health Promotion with Behavioral Medicine Emphasis, College of Public Health
B.S. in Applied Biotechnology with Biomedical Sciences Emphasis, College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

May 2024

Stockbridge, GA

What attracted you to a degree in the field of public health? 

I was drawn to public health due to its deviation from the typical degree programs often pursued by pre-health students. The Health Promotion major provides a solid foundation for developing perspectives that are essential to effecting change in public health and healthcare. This includes understanding the impacts of social determinants of health, influencing health behaviors, and serving various communities with vastly different needs. I firmly believe that every aspiring healthcare practitioner should have received adequate education regarding public health principles to effectively serve their community.

Why did you choose your particular concentration? Certificate? Minor?

I opted to concentrate in Behavioral Medicine within my Health Promotion major, because it is specifically tailored specifically for pre-health students like me. It allowed me to fulfill all the prerequisites for medical school while studying my favorite public health topics.

I am also pursuing a second major at the College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences in Applied Biotechnology. This major surprisingly overlaps with many of the requirements for my Health Promotion major, along with my pre-med requirements, so it was an easy addition. I was also interested in learning more about research methods in the biotechnology industry and how the entire system works together to address health problems and treat patients.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your time as a public health student?

I enjoyed participating in a service-learning project with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore that I engaged with as a part of a health promotion course. My group was assigned the mission of disseminating resources and information to the public about obtaining free or low-cost mobility equipment. Through the time I spent volunteering in the store and discussing our project with visitors, it was the first time I gained practical, hands-on experience with community outreach. This experience enhanced my understanding of how to ensure that public health messages are reaching the people who need them.

Are you engaged in any interesting research or outreach projects?

Research has been a huge part of my time here at the University of Georgia. I’ve done research surrounding various topics such as epigenetics, science education, and metabolomics. I am currently doing research about sexual and reproductive health. Participating in undergraduate research has given me the opportunity to refine skills such as attention to detail, collaboration, and problem solving. These experiences have helped to inform what direction my career is headed.

What did you do for your internship? What did you learn? What was the biggest challenge?

In my internship role, I am a research assistant supporting data collection and content analysis for a team studying the landscape of sexual and reproductive health across the nation. I pursued this internship because I wanted to incorporate research into my career in some capacity, and I wanted to continue the work that I began with this group last summer. This internship has further reinforced that the subject matter is very stigmatized, and future leaders must stay vigilant about ensuring that education and transparency about sexual and reproductive health is constantly improving rather than regressing. The biggest challenge I have faced thus far has just been juggling all my responsibilities as I prepare for graduation and future endeavors.

Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?

Volunteering with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia was incredibly worthwhile. Food insecurity is more widespread than most people realize. This experience highlighted the coordinated efforts that lie behind essential public health efforts that pour into needs that our nation often overlooks and fails to address.

I also spent two years as a volunteer for UGArden through Serve UGA. I helped lead service events at UGArden where we assisted with tasks that help to maintain the farm. This experience allowed me to tap into my love of being outdoors while helping to inform others about the importance of sustainable agriculture and tackling food insecurity.

Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about environmentalism and sustainability, so I have found fulfillment through my current involvement with a fellowship under an organization called Mi Familia Vota. This fellowship provides a space to discuss intersectional issues related to environmental justice and immigration. I had the opportunity to participate in a Lobby Day at the Georgia State Capitol where I spoke with my representatives about the importance of supporting a bill related to environmental justice efforts in Georgia. As a result, I have realized that I would love to incorporate policy and advocacy efforts during my career.

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

I’m most proud of starting an organization on campus called Revive Book Club. It’s an organization dedicated to exploring literature by Black authors across various genres. As one of my favorite hobbies, I care deeply about spreading the love of reading and literature. I believe it’s incredibly important to encourage people to diversify their reading lists and amplify the voices of Black authors and creatives. Everyone deserves to see themselves as the main character, an opportunity that is rare for Black people within mainstream reading circles.

What insights have you gained as a public health student?

My journey as a public health student has taught me how interconnected the various aspects of life are and how this impacts public health. The struggles that many people experience such as affording healthcare, seeking social connection, combating career/educational burnout, crime victimization, and simply accessing basic needs are oftentimes not isolated occurrences that result from individual shortcomings. Instead, these hardships are structural and intentional even, taking on a whole new meaning for minorities and low SES populations. This is why it’s crucial to adopt a justice-minded perspective when analyzing current events and hot button societal issues, whether they are happening on a personal level or global scale.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I will be taking a gap-year and applying to medical school. My ultimate goal is to become a public health physician, combining my interest in medicine with my dedication to address health outcomes on a community level.

Posted May 13, 2024.