Matt Chrisman

Describe your career path since graduating from the UI College of Public Health.
Near the end of my time in the CPH, I knew that I wanted to pursue a postdoctoral experience and enhance my skills and knowledge in nutrition research, so I completed a one-year postdoc in Texas Tech University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. From there, I decided to add an additional skillset to my repertoire, so I ended up in another postdoc, this time in epidemiology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I have been there for almost two years and I currently study physical activity and health outcomes in a cohort of 25,000 Mexican-Americans in the Houston, Texas, area.

My plans when that position is finished are to use all of my skills and training to work for a state research and extension office and help develop, implement, and evaluate nutrition education and physical activity programs.

How did working with the PRC as a student help prepare or inform you for your current job?
Every single thing I did while working for the PRC has prepared me for my most recent and current jobs. In the PRC, I collected, analyzed, and managed data; prepared and revised manuscripts; helped plan and deliver interventions; and presented research at local and national meetings, all of which I currently do. I could not have asked for a better experience to prepare me for the future. I am greatly indebted to my PRC advisor (Dr. Faryle Nothwehr) and supervisor (Heidi Haines), as well as the supporting staff and faculty of the PRC, who encouraged my progress and helped me learn how to conduct research properly. My success is partially a result of their leadership and mentoring.

What’s the most important thing you took away from your time working with the PRC?
I think the most important thing I took away was the importance of knowing your audience. Public health is so broad and so important, but is most effective when you narrow your population and focus on a specific group. Generic public health messages and programs will get lost if you cannot tailor them specifically to those who need them and relate to them. The PRC was good about reinforcing that message.

Additionally, I learned the value of working as a team and getting input from individuals with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. Public health requires collaboration and teamwork, and the PRC was very good at demonstrating the importance of developing relationships and collaborative networks.

What’s one of the most satisfying aspects of your work in public health?
Working with people. It is satisfying to see public health affecting lives for the better. It is also challenging and requires hard work, which makes for an enjoyable experience.

What do you think current students should know about the value of working with faculty and research projects like those affiliated with the PRC?
The faculty at the University of Iowa and in the PRC are some of the best in the world. Working closely with them is a unique experience that will provide hands-on knowledge and skills that are crucial for successful public health programs. Take advantage of every opportunity to get involved with the faculty and their research!

What would you tell students about the value of working on community-based research or rural health?
Rural environments are unique and understudied, and also provide a great opportunity to learn more about the world. Additionally, working with community-based projects is incredibly rewarding. Don’t be afraid to devote lots of time to research studies, especially as the hands-on experience you get working in rural areas and with communities can be more educational than classroom experiences.