Ashley Woodall
Ashley Woodall

Ashley completed her MPH in epidemiology in 2015 and served as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Brit Saksvig on the Sisters Healthy and Physically Empowered (SHAPE) Study during her graduate study.

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health is life. You can't go a day without interacting with one aspect of public health -- it's in everything we do. 

What inspired you to study public health?

After obtaining my undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, I was employed at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where I worked on a study addressing racial disparities in end-stage renal disease (ESRD). It amazed me how many African Americans with ESRD enter dialysis without being fully informed about their condition or their treatment options. I knew the problem went beyond the health care system and I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to understand and reduce these disparities.  

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

I think the biggest challenges are obesity and mental health, which are two Healthy People 2020 objectives we are failing to improve. Suicide and adolescent depression are worsening and there has been little to no change in adult or child obesity. 

Why did you choose public health at UMD?

I like that UMD is close to Washington, D.C., which allows for a lot of research and conference opportunities. Also, unlike other schools of public health, UMD's departments are small, which means you actually get to know other students and your professors. 

How has your degree program at UMD’s School of Public Health shaped your career goals? 

This program has opened a lot of doors and has allowed me to participate in some great research and advancement opportunities. So far, I have had the opportunity to be actively involved in the implementation and design of a study and I was selected as a delegate for the CDC's 2014 Millennial Health Leaders Summit. 

What person or experience has had the greatest impact on you during your degree program?

When I was still pretty new to the field of public health, I took HLTH130 with Dr. Donna Howard, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health. Through this course, I discovered that I was really passionate about the social determinants of health. Plus, Dr. Howard has been such a great source of support and motivation. She is one of the reasons I applied to UMD. 

Published Dec. 1, 2014