SDSU Extension welcomes new health education field specialist

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — SDSU Extension was selected by the Centers for Disease Control to aid in training the next generation of public health professionals through the Public Health Associate Program.

“We are excited about the opportunity this program provides to introduce the next generation of public health professionals to the extension model,” explained Suzanne Stluka, SDSU Extension Food & Families Program director.

The Public Health Associate Program is a competitive, paid two-year training program. Through this program, Lauren Pierce was selected to join the SDSU Extension team. Pierce recently received her masters of public health – health behavior and health promotion from The Ohio State University. Over the next two years, Pierce will serve South Dakotans as a SDSU Extension health education field specialist.

“There are many misconceptions of what extension is and the type of public health-related work we do. Through this program, Lauren will have an opportunity to look at public health through a different lens than she may have been exposed to in her schooling,” Stluka said.

Over the next two years, Pierce will assist SDSU Extension food and families staff with on-going projects throughout the state. She will be looking for areas of need and then design public health programming SDSU Extension personnel can utilize to meet that need.

“I appreciate the way extension takes the resources and research developed within the University and disseminates that information to serve people throughout the state,” said Pierce, who credits her Grandma Nancy, with introducing her to public health.

“My grandma is a nurse and I’m really close to her. I have always been impressed by the way she is able to care for people in her community,” Pierce said. “I started my undergrad as a pre-nursing major, but then switched to public health because it seemed to better combine my interests in healthcare and advocating for people who do not have a voice.”

Pierce focused her graduate research on the behavioral aspect of unhealthy choices. “Many believe that people just behave badly and that’s why they are unhealthy. However, the root cause of our health behaviors runs much deeper,” Pierce explained.

During the next two years, Pierce, a native of Columbus, Ohio, looks forward to getting to know South Dakota and serving its people through her work with SDSU Extension.

To learn more about SDSU Extension food and families programming, visit