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A Commitment to Community-Engaged Research

Headshots of student

July 15, 2021

Sharefa Duhaney, is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the Dornsife School of Public health (DSPH) and studied within the department of Community Health and Prevention (CHP). She moved from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia to pursue her degree.

Duhaney learned about the field of public health in a course in her undergraduate program and was quickly intrigued by its far-reaching impact. “I wanted to branch out and move from an individual focus of health to a more systems focus,” she said.

When researching various MPH programs, Duhaney shared that DSPH stood out in large part because of faculty whose work interested her. In particular, she was intrigued by the work of John Rich, MD, MPH, professor, Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, assistant professor, and Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, associate professor, who she later was able to connect with in the program.

Through coursework and practice experiences in the program, Duhaney grew as a professional and was equipped with skills that potential employers value. “DSPH provided me with the support I didn’t know I needed, but also taught me many skills like using data tools (R, STATA, GIS), learning salary negotiation and interview tips from the Student Affairs team.”

A highlight of Duhaney’s time in the MPH program was participating in Dornsife’s Maternal Child Health Program as a member of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Student Organization and a Peer Health Educator. She also participated in a research project sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Public Health Training Center that allowed her to gain hands-on experience supporting mothers.

This research project culminated with Duhaney presenting at a workshop titled "Learning from Mothers of Birthing People of Color about Postpartum Experiences during COVID: Informing Peer Support” at the Association of MCH Programs (AMCHP) 2021 Conference. She shared qualitative data she gathered from focus groups she hosted.

Despite the many challenges the pandemic had brought to Duhaney and her classmates, she had a lot to celebrate on graduation day (June 10, 2021). “I am proud of sticking through it all! As a first-generation student, there were times when I just didn’t know what I didn’t know,” she said. “It was hard figuring out the journey of grad school, but thanks to the continued support of faculty, I made it through – summa cum laude!”

Upon graduation, Duhaney returned to Ohio but is still working in CHP. For two research projects in the department, she manages reviews, comparative analyses, synthesis of relevant systems, social change frameworks, and learning theories that embed racial equity into the process. She also evaluates data related to violent incidents, injuries, emotional trauma, legal consequences, and individual and neighborhood-level risk factors to create a community violence needs and assets profile. These reports have been disseminated broadly among community members, leaders, and organizational partners, and stakeholders city-wide.

“My passion has always been community-engaged research that considers trauma, racial justice, and equity,” said Duhaney. “Often communities are engaged with researchers and stakeholders, but sustainable action usually falls short, and communities are left with no real help or resources. I want to change that.”

Throughout her career, Duhaney hopes to continue to involve communities at all stages of public health research while ensuring that solutions are achievable and sustainable by community standards. “I want under resourced and marginalized communities to know that they have a voice, and they are not just hubs for studies but people that matter and people that deserve to be fought for,” she said.

Duhaney will continue pursuing community-engaged research opportunities and plans to enter into a public health doctoral program to further advance her career.