Jana Peterson-Besse

Describe your career path since graduating from the UI College of Public Health.
I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Disability & Health at the Oregon Institute on Disability and Development at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Ore. I then briefly held a faculty position at OHSU in Public Health and Disability & Health. From 2010-2012, I was the Health Disparities Research Coordinator for the Institute for Human Development at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Since 2012, I have been an Assistant Professor of Public Health at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. I was the initial faculty hire for the program at Pacific University, which is an undergraduate major program.

How did working with the PRC as a student help prepare or inform you for your current job?
Working at the PRC taught me about the importance of involving communities in projects that affect them. For my current job, I spend a lot of time teaching undergraduates. Some of these students will go into public health and others will pursue work in other fields. I emphasize to my students that regardless of their field, involving communities, communicating with members of communities, and looking to community knowledge for how to solve difficult problems is of utmost importance.

The PRC also gave me opportunities to participate in research from a variety of perspectives, from collaborating with community members on community-based participatory research projects to collecting data and cleaning data sets to writing grants and publications. This work prepared me to be successful in research.

What’s the most important thing you took away from your time working with the PRC?
I took away a commitment to conducting research that centers on the communities in which the research is conducted.

What are one or two of the most satisfying aspects of your work in public health?
I am passionate about the pursuit of social justice. Whether I am working directly with communities to promote change or teaching students about issues of inequity and inspiring them to promote change, it is satisfying to work toward the aim of increased justice in our world.

What do you think current students should know about the value of working with faculty and research projects like those affiliated with the PRC?
Conducting research with faculty provides many opportunities. More than any course in graduate school, it was the mentored research experience that gave me the knowledge, skills, and confidence for work with communities and for navigating a career in academia.

What would you tell students about the value of working on community-based research or rural health?
Community-based research methods are so important! We need real, sustainable change within our communities. Community-based research can create or motivate that change while also providing important evidence for intervention need and effectiveness.