Public Health & Health Sciences Blog

jamila 3.12 headshotShortly after graduating from the UM-Flint M.S. in health education program, Jamila Kwarteng entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Her study on associations between observed neighborhood characteristics and physical activity was recently published in the Journal of Public Health. Kwarteng generously took time from her busy schedule to tell us about life as a doctoral candidate.

For students who may be considering pursuing doctoral programs, can you tell us more about life as a doctoral candidate?

Life as a doctoral candidate is different from day to day, where some days are busier than others. The busy days can consist of meeting with research projects, guest speakers, or with fellow students; or it can consist of deadlines related to my dissertation. The lighter days usually involve reading the literature and writing for about 6 hours per day.

You were recently published in the Journal of Public Health, please tell us about that project and other research projects you have been involved in as a doctoral candidate. Overall, what are your research interests?

The article we published in the Journal of Public Health grew out of my research with the Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP), a community-based participatory research project focused on reducing disparities in cardiovascular health. The study we published examined whether the relationship between individual characteristics and physical activity varied by observed neighborhood characteristics (i.e. sidewalk condition, physical disorder, street condition). For example, are individuals who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks in better condition more physically activity than does with sidewalks in worse condition; and does this relationship vary by individual characteristics (i.e. age, gender)? We found that better sidewalk condition was associated with increases in physical activity among women and men of varying socioeconomic statuses.

My research interest is in how racial and social inequities contribute to cardiovascular disease. My dissertation focuses specifically on the potential pathways between psychosocial stress and central adiposity.

What advice do you have for students and fellow alumni?

For students and fellow alumni who are interested in pursuing doctoral studies, I would advise them to pursue areas that they are passionate about. Once you are able to find a topic that really interests you, it is much easier to conduct your research. In addition, seek out mentors who can assist you in navigating your path from the masters program to the doctoral program, and through your doctoral studies and beyond. They can guide you through the transition process by providing information on what you can expect from the program, and what your program will expect from you.

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