Jovonni grew up thinking she had only two career options, either a lawyer or a doctor. She thought okay, I’ll be a dentist. However, when she entered college, she soon realized dentistry was not for her, plus dental school was extremely expensive.
She decided to stay on the biology track and like many young adults, she would figure out what to do with her degree later.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), she realized that she could not see herself working in a laboratory, teaching, or any other biology-centric career.
She decided to take some graduate-level courses in African-American studies at VCU. At that point, a light bulb went off in her head. Jovonni knew that she had found her calling. She could impact millions by focusing on population health and working to make a difference on a larger scale. And, this is how her career in public health started.
Shortly after finishing a few graduate-level courses at VCU, she started researching graduate-level public health programs. Her choice, Emory University. She studied the behavioral science and health education track, which is the foundation for all of her work.
After graduation, Jovonni applied to several jobs in Atlanta and the Washington D.C. area. She thought, “When you think of public health you think of CDC in Atlanta and the federal government in D.C.”
Her opportunity came in Washington, D.C. She felt that Washington, D.C had more diversity and she would be given more opportunities to work with minority groups and different types of public health organizations.
Jovonni’s education did not stop in Atlanta. She knew that to educate others on public health issues she needed her certification. Her Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential solidified that she understood not only how to assess the needs of the community but to evaluate the data and find resources for the community.
Jovonni pursued her PhD in public health at Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she is currently working on her dissertation researching the impacts of obesity among African-American women.
To young professionals, Jovonni suggests that you find your niche and passion. Find what you love to talk about and research. Figure out how you can put your own spin on the information. Public health is a very dynamic and evolving field.
“Reach for the stars and think outside of the box. Get involved in your community, professional organizations and attend as many meetings and conferences as you can. Stay informed!”
As a senior public health advisor for the Office of Minority Health at the FDA, Jovonni finds that the most rewarding aspect of her job is making a positive impact.
“Nothing better than someone coming up to you after a presentation and saying they learned so much and will use the findings to influence their daily work.”
Being recognized as a credible source is everything when you are in a fast-growing field such as public health. She knows at the end of the day that the victories – both small and large – keep her engaged. She is constantly reminded that she is doing what she loves, it is her passion and purpose.
Jovonni loves public health and how she is making a difference in the lives of minorities through research, health promotion, and advocacy.
When she is not “saving the world,” she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends. She is a foodie and when asked what she would have been if she was a public health professional, she said, “a baker”.
Next for Jovonni – a senior leadership position at the FDA where she can combine her skills to make a positive impact. She has experience in communications, policy, and program planning and loves to be a true champion for health equity and reducing health disparities in the communities that she serves.