Athens, Ga. – Shelly Hovick, a doctoral student in speech communication at the University of Georgia, has been chosen as one of eleven recipients nationwide to receive a Kellogg Health Scholars Fellowship. The award is given annually to individuals engaging in health disparities research.
Hovick, the second UGA student to receive this fellowship, will pursue her research at the Center for Research on Minority Health at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
The Kellogg Health Scholars Program seeks to develop new leadership in the effort to reduce and eliminate health disparities and increase access to services vital for achieving healthy communities. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and managed by the Center for the Advancement of Health in partnership with the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the program supports each scholar with an annual stipend of $60,000 and a $10,000 annual research fund during the two-year fellowship.
When Hovick completed her master’s degree in organizational communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2001, she initially anticipated a career as a corporate trainer. However, her direction changed after working as a community educator for the Hunger Task Force, an anti-hunger advocacy organization and food bank in Milwaukee, Wis.
The experience sparked an interest in health communications, particularly as a vehicle to improve health and reduce health disparities that exist between high- and low-income groups.
“One piece of the health disparities picture that is becoming more important is the notion of communication disparities,” said Hovick. “Some people lack the information that influences the types of health behaviors they engage in simply because they don’t have access to it.”
Hovick’s scholarly endeavors as a research assistant in UGA’s Southern Center for Communication, Health and Poverty have since focused on how to close these health and information gaps. She has been involved in research aimed at understanding the degree to which low-income people feel susceptible to a variety of health risks ranging from chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, to more controllable risks such as car accidents, HIV/AIDS and drug addiction.
“We’ve really been looking at two major things,” said Hovick. “One is how does worry about a health risk influence information-seeking behaviors, as well as health behaviors? And secondly what are the factors that lead people to seek and process information deeply and how does that influence their health protection behaviors?”
Hovick’s doctoral dissertation builds on this further by exploring the factors that help and hinder communication of family health histories, which can identify genetic susceptibilities and can be used as a guide to health protective behaviors.
For more information about the Kellogg Health Scholar Program, see http://www.kellogghealthscholars.org.