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Receiving Recognition for Innovative Research

Kearney presenting his poster at APHA

December 5, 2018

Matthew Kearney, MPH, Community Health and Prevention doctoral candidate '20, was selected as the winner of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Community Health Planning and Policy Development (CHPPD) Section's Best Doctoral Student Abstract — Exploring Knowledge and Attitudes about HPV and Vaccination among Nurses in an Urban School District. This study investigates the vital advocacy role school nurses can play in increasing immunizations among students. When Kearney first received the news that he had been selected, he was in disbelief. "I was so shocked that I assumed that it must have been an error and checked that it was not a spam message," he says.

Once the news fully set in, he remembers feeling truly honored. "I was humbled that I would be representing the Dornsife School of Public Health at the APHA Annual Meeting in California," Kearney says. He presented his research to his peers and was honored at APHA's CHPPD Awards Ceremony and Social in San Diego, CA on November 12, 2018.

For Kearney, having his work recognized further confirmed that coming to the Dornsife School of Public Health for his PhD was an excellent choice. "It was a sign that I had made the right decision to transition from my career as a high school teacher to that of a public health graduate student."

With the help of his faculty advisor Philip Massey, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of Community Health and Prevention at Dornsife, and a dedicated team, Kearney has been able to explore new methods of delivering public health messages to the public. "I approach public health issues in non-traditional ways," he says.

The doctoral candidate is now focused on mining social media data for health behavior insights across diverse content areas, such as HPV, vaping, and entertainment education. For example, he is currently analyzing the success of HPV vaccine campaigns on Instagram. The findings will be submitted for publication in an academic journal's special edition on digital health communications.

After graduation, Kearney says he plans to pursue a career as an academic researcher in Philadelphia. "I would enjoy a career where I am able to capitalize on my experience as a teacher while continuing to develop a portfolio of work in the fields of social media and public health research."