CHHS Alumna Accepted into CDC Public Health Associates Program

CHHS Alumna Accepted into CDC Public Health Associates Program

UNCW is dedicated to providing exceptional students like Victoria Decea ’18 with exceptional opportunities. In July of 2018, Decea was accepted into the CDC Public Health Associates Program, a two-year fellowship for recent graduates interested in professions in the public health field.

“I first heard about this program in the first public health course I took at UNCW, PBH 290,” Decea said. “I instantly knew this was what I wanted to work for. I knew the next couple of years I was going to do everything I could to get into that program.”

Associates are assigned to public health agencies and non-government organizations throughout the United States and its territories and get hands-on experience in various public health settings such as chronic disease prevention, STD/HIV prevention, immunization, epidemiology and emergency response.

“This opportunity opens up so many doors for me and my future,” Decea said. “Being trained by the leading public health agency is the best experience one can get.”

When Decea began UNCW, she thought wanted to be an exercise science major. She did not know exactly what she wanted to study but knew that her passion was healthy living. After meeting with a few professors, she was introduced to public health studies. She was drawn to the idea of positively impacting an entire population, not just an individual. She quickly switched majors.

“I am most passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles through exciting and informational programs,” Decea said. “I became a health promotion peer educator at UNCW my junior year. It really took my love for public health to the next level.”

Decea will be working at the National Recreation and Parks Association in Virginia under the health and wellness director. Her focus is chronic disease prevention through the built environment. She will provide technical assistance for the 10-Minute Walk campaign grant. This program aims to increase the walkability of parks across the country in effort to increase healthy equity in underserved populations. She will also assist communities in implementing CDC Arthritis-Appropriate Evidence-Based Interventions (AAEBI), programs that increase physical activity, education, and awareness to older adults suffering from arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Deccea is grateful for the mentors she had during her time at UNCW. She considers Dr. Hannah Catalano, assistant professor of public health in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, her role model. Dr. Catalano’s passion for teaching and public health is what inspired Decea to pursue different opportunities within the field.

“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for UNCW,” Decea said. “The opportunities at UNCW are endless, and I am so happy I was able to take advantage of so many. The support from faculty members surpasses just a professor-student relationship. They truly want the students to succeed and will help in any way they can.”