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Julie Russo [View Image]
Department: Division of Epidemiology
I graduated from James Madison University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Sciences. During my undergraduate studies, I was an assistant facilitator for sexual education for a teenage pregnancy prevention program in Harrisonburg and surrounding counties. This gave me the opportunity to work with high-risk youth in a space that allowed them to ask questions or voice concerns over daunting topics. The curriculum primarily focused on motivating behavior change by addressing factors such as attitudes/beliefs, social skills, and parent/child communication. In my time observing, I not only saw how important it was for adolescents to have a voice, but also someone who will listen and seek to understand them. My passion for youth development and sexual health education developed from this experience. Outside of the classroom, I spent time researching topics such as Adverse Childhood Experience Scores, high-risk behaviors of adolescents, and sexual education. I gained a stronger understanding of the social determinants of health and how they directly impact the overall health and well-being of individuals and populations, driving my interest in pursuing a Master of Public Health to focus on health education and promotion. I was drawn to Virginia Commonwealth University’s comprehensive curriculum, which allows students to gain skills in multiple competencies such as professional development, public health data, programmatic experience, and so on.