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Public health graduate forges national career influencing environmental policy

Public health graduate forges national career influencing environmental policy

Natasha DeJarnett, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Earning two public health degrees and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Louisville has paved the way for Natasha DeJarnett, Ph.D., M.P.H., to begin her career on the national stage as an environmental health policy analyst at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Center for Public Health Policy in Washington, D.C.

In her new position, the Georgetown, Ky. native, will provide governmental, workplace and community policy makers with information on the best available research and practice as it relates to topics such as climate change and chemical exposures.

“What is most exciting about Natasha’s trajectory, is that though she is a new professional, she already understands that to really have impact, you need to target policy at some level. To do so from a national platform at APHA is a wonderful opportunity, and we look forward to hearing of her work and impact for years to come,” said Craig Blakely, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean of the UofL School of Public Health & Information Sciences.

DeJarnett credits her success to her parents, the influence of UofL faculty, and APHA involvement that began with her commitment as a doctoral student in Public Health in 2010 to moderate an environmental justice roundtable forum, and blossomed from there. She went on to serve as an abstract reviewer, student involvement committee co-chair for the Environment Section, and program planning committee co-chair for the Environment Section.

“I am so thankful for the advice of my Ph.D. advisor Dr. David Tollerud,” said DeJarnett. “He told me that we need more policy makers who understand the science, and encouraged me to take biochemistry and to get hands-on experience in the lab.”

Throughout her education, she gained knowledge as a graduate research assistant, graduate fellow and postdoctoral fellow in the lab of environmental cardiologist Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., F.A.H.A., who also helped facilitate opportunities for her to explore the science that supports policy.

“It was a privilege as a post-doc to be part of a large epidemiological investigation analyzing the influence of common air pollution exposures on cardiovascular disease risk in Dr. Bhatnagar’s lab,” she said. “Through this experience, I was able to build on my cellular level lab efforts, and begin interacting with patients who suffer the impact of environmental toxicity.”

DeJarnett said she never initially intended to earn a degree beyond the M.P.H., but UofL public health faculty encouraged her to pursue the additional education needed to launch her career.

Watch Natasha’s story.

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