College of Public Health hosts symposium, recognizes women in the field as role models


Lieutenant Commander Niketta Womack tells event participants that in order to become a leader in public health, a person has to know their own worth in the field on Thursday. 

Abigail Winternitz

For Kent State, it is important to share experiences with leaders in the field in order to highlight the factors needed to achieve success, according to Lieutenant Commander Niketta Womack.

Womack, one of two speakers and an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, spoke at the 2nd Annual Public Health Diversity Symposium Thursday at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.

The symposium, co-sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and the Office of the Provost and University College, recognized nearly 40 underrepresented minority women as public health role models.

Sonia Alemagno, dean of the College of Public Health (CPH), kicked off the symposium by telling students the goal of the event is to listen and learn to each other in order to help one another succeed in their respective fields.

“We’re here today to stop and acknowledge that we need diversity in our community in order to succeed,” Alemango said. “We always want to address those leaders in public health from whom we can learn.”

Public health graduate student Shanice Cheatham conducted the first presentation, telling participants about her global healthcare company, Endemic Solutions, and why she decided to start her own business.

“Entrepreneurship was that merger between my backgrounds in health and the arts,” Cheatham said. “Starting Endemic Solutions really combined my passions and skills and led me on the path I’m on today.”

Cheatham also advised students to use the resources and professors in CPH to find success in their fields.

“Talk to professors, advisors – they are here because they want to be, not because they have to be, so use that to your advantage,” Cheatham said. “We are the current and future leaders in health, and everything we do from this day forward matters.”

Womack presented next, touching on how students can improve in networking, professionalism, work-life balance and finding your purpose after graduation.

Womack said she hopes that event participants were inspired and motivated to take what they learned and use it to excel.

“I hope that once you see that I made it, you believe that you can, too,” Womack said.

Communication-based public health student Nina Darden said both keynote speakers were inspiring to her.

“It gives me a lot of hope to see two black women up there succeeding in what they do,” said Darden. “It motivates me to get out there and be more persistent in reaching my goals.”

The event also included a buffet luncheon, followed by round table discussions moderated by several underrepresented minority graduate students in CPH.

Each of the small groups were then asked to share three recommendations for best practices when looking to enter the public health sector, which included finding strong mentors, learning to promote one’s assets and knowing one’s own worth when walking into a job interview. 

Priscilla Wiafe, a junior public health student, said she learned a lot from the small group discussions.

“We talked a lot about being more persistent and outgoing when you’re out networking, which is definitely something I will strive to do in the future,” said Wiafe.

The symposium then concluded with closing remarks from Alfreda Brown, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Brown said it was an incredible opportunity for students to take what they learned at the event and to apply it to their own career. 

“We gain hope from people like the speakers today, who have overcome obstacles in their life and risen to success,” Brown said.

Mark James, a professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology and the chair of the CPH diversity, equity and inclusion committee, said the event was a part of CPH’s mission to promote diversity and global initiatives within the college.

“We’re very proud of our speakers, this event, and what we’re doing for diversity in the college,” James said.

Abigail Winternitz is the College of Public Health reporter, contact her at [email protected].