When you specialize in sexually transmitted infections, people tend to reach out to you. At least, that’s been Christine Johnston’s experience, as a physician and researcher studying genital herpes based at the University of Washington. Prior to starting her fellowship with the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, her public engagement was mostly reactive, interacting with patients and people concerned they might have genital herpes, and responding to requests for media interviews. She found that patient support group conversations often stimulated research questions about the stigma associated with herpes, questions that wouldn’t have arisen just in the clinical setting, even though the stigma is very connected to clinical impacts.
Conducting her dissertation research in the highlands of western Kenya on factors affecting contraction of malaria gave Kacey Ernst insight into why spending time with a community is critical to improving public health.