Science Speaks: Talking to Women in Science (Rebecca, Health Communication Specialist)

I always wanted to go East and I wanted to
go to an Ivy League school. I wanted to work and travel internationally, and those were
sort of big dreams for someone who came from pretty modest circumstances.
I went to school in New York. I went to Columbia and I studied Italian literature, so I was
studying Dante and Medieval Italian literature, so that doesn’t seem to have much relevance
to my work today, but it was really a wonderful formation. And then I got to live in Italy
for several years after that. I studied international finance and business,
which was completely a different pathway yet again. And from there I went to work at the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Then I got married and came to Cincinnati
and was looking for a little bit of a change. I worked in commercial banking for a while
and that didn’t seem to be the right fit. So I guess going back to my communication
roots I decided to go back to school and that’s where I got into my professional writing program
and into health education. When we think of scientists, or least when
I thought of scientists as a kid, I think of someone in a starched, white lab coat and
using Bunsen burners and test tubes and peering through a microscope. The field of science
is much broader and encompasses a lot more activities than we might think.
We’re looking at a lot of things as health communicators. It’s not just about developing
messages: Quit smoking or do this thing to enhance your health. It’s really looking
at a broad range of human activities, so it’s where do people live? What social environments
do they interact in? What is their culture and ethnic background? How old are they? Because
that also influences how they receive health messages.
I feel like I have a lot more opportunities for work-life balance in this role than I
did in other jobs that I’ve worked in. I think that’s really important when you have
small children. I feel fortunate too, because I know it’s not always possible to have
that balance. It’s not perfect: mornings are really, really ugly sometimes, but compared
to what it could be, it works most days. The mentors in my life. I can really mark
almost every stage of my professional and academic experience by the mentor or mentors
I had at that time of life. I had all these crazy ideas and no one ever
told me no, you can’t do that because… Sure, why not? So I never had that internal
message of somehow I was limited by my circumstances or that wouldn’t be possible for me. That
was always very helpful.

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