Friday, May 19, 2023

Season 2, Episode 10:

The Secrets to Joyful and Effective Research and Evaluation

In this episode, we’re talking with Araba Assan about the secrets to not just effective, but joyful public health research and evaluation as she shares her public health journey.

Season 2, Episode 10: The Secrets to Joyful and Effective Research and Evaluation

by Dr. Joyee Washington and Araba Assan


Welcome to The Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like; the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way. I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a public health researcher, PhD survivor and entrepreneur.

In today’s episode, we are talking with Araba Assan about the secrets to not just effective but joyful public health research and evaluation. This is where research meets relationships. And together, we will find our public health joy.


Maame Araba Assan, MPH, CHES is a  public health researcher, evaluator, educator, and health equity advocate with a collective of five years of experience working in higher education institutions and non-profit organizations. Araba received both her Master of Public Health and B.S. in Public Health degrees from Montclair State University and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Araba currently works on cancer research and health behavior projects and her niche skills include: health education, public health research & evaluation, mixed methods research, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, communication & technical writing, and public speaking. 

Araba has always been passionate about public health, and has been a fierce advocate  on issues related to health equity, mental health, maternal child health/reproductive justice and racial justice. Araba hopes to disrupt patterns of systemic inequities in health institutions through research and eventually health policy. 

To connect with Araba Assan, search for her profile on Linkedin, Instagram, and Clubhouse!

For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit


0:00 Introduction

2:45 Araba Assan’s journey into public health.

6:49 The importance of following your passion and following your interest.

10:05 You are not the expert when you go into community settings.

12:39 The difference between research and evaluation.

17:40 The importance of evaluation

20:00 How Araba got into public health research

25:11 Asking for help and mentorship

31:00 What brings you joy in your work?

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[00:00:47] JW: All right. Welcome to another episode of The Public Health Joy podcast. And today we have Araba Assan with us. And she is a public health researcher, evaluator and advocate.


And so, here’s the interesting thing. When I introduce my guests, I tell how we met or how we know each other. And Araba and I, this is our first-time meeting. However, we have been in the public health circles, the public health internet and social media circles for probably – what? The past two years or so? Like we’re always seeing each other. We’re always chatting via DMs and comments and all this kind of stuff. It really does feel like we know each other.


And even just in our talking just before we started recording the podcast, it felt very natural. Like we’ve been friends forever. I mean, I think that’s kind of the beautiful thing about being in this public health space and having the internet and social media, you get to make these connections. And you feel like you really get to know people in a different kind of way.


I am so excited to have you as a guest today. So why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are? What you do? And what your journey has been like?


[00:02:04] AA: Absolutely. No. Thank you so much, Dr. Washington, for having me on your wonderful podcast. Hello, Public Health Joy listeners. Thank you so much.


Let’s see. My journey in public health. Originally, I was pre-med. I wanted to be a doctor. You know, very typical. I think there are a lot of –


[00:02:26] JW: How many –


[00:02:28] AA: Right?


[00:02:28] JW: How many of us have been on that track? Like we’re going to be pre-med. We’re going to be doctors. Yeah.


[00:02:33] AA: Right? Yeah. And then you realize, it’s like, “Oh, wait. Chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, genetics.” It’s like, “Oh, no. This is not for me.”


[00:02:42] JW: It’s a little much. It’s a little much. I don’t want to do this forever.


[00:02:44] AA: Yeah. It’s a tad. It’s a tad too much. I was pre-med. You know, going on the pre-med track. And actually, took in my sophomore year in undergrad and introduction to public health course. And I was really intrigued with everything around public health. And then I think I knew right then and there this was something I really wanted to do. But I didn’t necessarily want to abandon my pre-med track.


I think what really solidified after taking that course, you know, being introduced to different health disparities and the documentary on natural causes, I think that really sparked a big, big interest in public health. Meaning, okay, this is something I really want to do. This is something I can see myself doing long-term.


But again, not so sure. You know, I’m still trying to be on that pre-med path. And then I actually took an elective mental health course. And that just completely opened my mind, my brain, my interest into public health overall.


Because as you know, Dr. Washington, public health is such a broad, broad topic. You can really go into anything. So take taking that mental health course really allowed me to say, “You know what? I’m changing my major.” Mind you, I changed my major during what was supposed to be my last year in undergrad. I completely changed from – I believe I was a molecular biology major with a minor in public health. I flipped it to public Health major with a concentration in community health education plus a minor in biology because I didn’t want to get rid of those classes. I didn’t want to waste my time.


So that was kind of like my journey into public health. And honestly, I’m not looking back. I love what I do. Do I think it can be improved? Absolutely. And to me, I think what really made me realize that our public health industry has so much work to do is COVID and the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Be we – especially as a black woman, we knew all these things were happening.


And then you also had the black maternal health crisis. We knew that it affected us deeply and more disproportionately. It was a bit surprising and disappointing to really hear from white colleagues or people that you went to school with, how surprised they were about some of these things. But it’s like there are some of us who were in this work who have been screaming at the rooftops. You all just didn’t listen until it became convenient.


That was my journey into public health. And I always try to challenge the field really to do better, to do more, to really listen to black women, black people, women of color, indigenous folks, LGBTQ, those who are disabled, those who have like veteran statuses. Like any marginalized community that is not predominantly white, and heterosexual and/or Christian, I think we do a disservice in the field if we do not try to adequately address the issues through a racial justice, health Justice and health equity approach.


[00:06:26] JW: Yes. Absolutely. I completely 100% agree. Because when you start being engaged in public health and you start seeing how many problems there are. Like it’s plenty of work out here to do, y’all. I mean, people are always questioning, like, “I can’t find a job in public health. There aren’t any opportu –” It’s plenty.


[00:06:49] AA: There are so many. There are so many. You have to find what works for you. And don’t necessarily – and this is the one thing I would say for any student, whether they are undergrad, grad or getting their doctoral degree. Find what works for you. You don’t necessarily have to listen to your advisor or your professors because sometimes your professors or your advisors, they’re not thinking the way that you’re thinking about public health. Because sometimes most of these professors, they’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years. But since you are a newcomer, you’re seeing the field and the new fresh light, fresh pair of eyes. And so, you’re seeing things differently. And so, that mindset also changes how you see public health.


If you want to go into maternal child health and your advisor is steering you away from that, get a new advisor. If your professors are more or less not really encouraging what you want to do and you have a clear vision of how you are trying to connect two different interests that you are passionate about and you’re getting dismissed, then maybe you shouldn’t go to that particular professor or advisor for advice.


Talk to your friends. Talk to your family members. Talk to other people who have your similar interests so that way they could potentially give you resources or tips on how to move in that direction so you can be successful.


[00:08:20] JW: Yeah. Absolutely. And when it comes to your professional career, it’s hard because, you know, we have to live, right? We got to have the money. We need to have a job. All that type of stuff. But when you are a student and you are trying to figure out things, your lived experience matters.


[00:08:37] AA: Oh, yes. It absolutely matters.


[00:08:41] JW: You know? You have to really take into consideration what are the things that are important to you? What are the things that you are passionate about? Because when you get into this field, it is not for the week. It is not for the faint of heart. So if you are not passionate about it, if you are not interested in it, if you are just in it for the money, you are going to fall quickly.


[00:09:01] AA: Yes, you will.


[00:09:02] JW: Because there are plenty of things that are going to knock you down on your tail. And you are going to have to figure out, “How do I get up?” What is going to motivate you? So you have to be able to focus on not just what the job is going to bring you the money. But also, following your passion and following your interest. And that might be based on the things that you’ve been through in your own life. Because a lot of times, that’s what we know.


And I think when it comes to research, research has a reputation for, “Oh, I don’t want to be biased or I don’t want to be too connected to the topic. Or I want to make sure I just distance myself so I can look at this objectively.” But no. We need researchers who can connect.


[00:09:45] AA: Yeah.


[00:09:46] JW: Who can connect to what’s going on into the people who matter in our exper – just like you mentioned, those marginalized or vulnerable populations who can connect with what they’re going through so that we can have more effective research that makes positive impacts in those communities.


[00:10:05] AA: Absolutely. Yeah. Honestly, now that you talked about research, it is really important what you just highlighted, Dr. Washington, that your lived experience will drive the research that you want to go into. And it’s so critical and so important to have researchers that look like you that you can go to for advice. You know, black researchers. Other researchers of color who have the similar lived experience. May be slightly different depending on ethnicity, nationality, demographics, region. But you still share a common lived experience of whether being black, being LGBTQ, being disabled. Or if you have a veteran status. You know, all these different things.


And it’s important that, especially if you’re doing research in communities, always remember, you, the researcher, you are not the expert when you go into community settings. That is number one. And I feel like there are not many public health professors, I would say, who really articulate that. There are very few who actually do the work and tell you, “Hey, when you go into a community and you’re trying to do research, don’t put your research hat on. Because if you put your research hat on, the community will automatically shun you. Say you’re a researcher, why are you here? Oh, you’re here to collect data? Sorry. We’re not about that life.


You have to go into certain communities with a sense of humility, compassion and respect. You have to respect even some cultural things that you may not agree with. But at the end of the day, you are trying to learn from said community. So that way, if you see a need that needs to be addressed, let the – either community leaders, church members. If there’s elders in the communities, let them know and let them be aware. Let them be involved. Get engaged with them.


And I think it speaks to so much how having a researcher that looks like you who shares your passion and they really want the best for you. And I think this actually leads to my next comment that I’m going to make about distinguishing between being a researcher and an evaluator.


Because I feel like sometimes, in public health, those two terms are interchangeable. They are not. They are two com –


[00:12:38] JW: Absolutely not.


[00:12:39] AA: Yeah. They are two completely separate entities within the broad public health umbrella. One, specifically, I believe focuses on, “Okay, what specific issue or what specific health condition needs to be further looked at through literature, talking to folks and really asking the questions?” And then the evaluation side I believe is, “Okay, let’s say you have an HIV program from, let’s just say, New Jersey.” Because that’s kind of where I’m from. I’m just using the HIV prevention in New Jersey program as an example. And it’s a statewide HIV program in New Jersey.


As an evaluator, if I would come in and tell said client in New Jersey, let’s say New Jersey Department of Health, that wants me to really look at their program to see have they met their goals? Have they reached their target population? And if not, why? What needs to be improved? Do they need more staff? Do they need resources? If they need resources, what kind? Do they need transportation? Do they need more materials? You know, things like that.


As an evaluator, I try to look at what has already been done. Look at what has been done. Really comb through all the texts. Talk to different people who have distinct knowledge about said program. Whether that’s staff that could possibly be former participants in a program to kind of get an overall broad sense as to what were some of the pros? What were some of the cons?


And then as the evaluator, I take all of that, make my recommendations and give it back to said New Jersey Department of Health for them to properly improve. So that way, they are looking at things possibly through a health equity, racial justice, social justice lens. That’s kind of how I see both public health research and evaluation.


[00:15:02] JW: Yeah. And I mean, as far as research and evaluation, there are people who are public health researchers and there are people who are public health evaluators. They stay in their completely separate worlds. But it’s really important to understand how the two really need to work together.


And a lot of times, when I’m talking about research and evaluation, sometimes I like to break it down even simpler and trying – because I know. That’s how it was explained to me. And sometimes I have to think of it in terms of like a recipe.


Let’s say we’re developing a soup recipe, right? Research would be saying, “Okay, what kind of soup am I going to make? What kind of soup is out there? What ingredients can I make? What kind of new recipe can I develop?” That’s doing the research. That’s asking the questions and figuring out what you can come up with.


Evaluating means that you are now making the soup and you’re tasting the soup. And you’re trying to see, “How is this soup? Is it too salty? Is it too sweet? Is the vegetable-to-meat ratio right? Is the broth too thin?” It’s a judgment on how –


[00:16:04] AA: Oh, you’re making me hungry, Dr. Washington.


[00:16:07] JW: Hey, I like – this is how my brain works. I have to simplify things to explain it. But that’s what it is. That’s how you can kind of remember the differences. Researchers asking those questions to discover something new. But that evaluation process is how can we improve up on it? What are the things that we need to look for to make sure that this thing is successful?


When you’re talking about research and evaluation, we don’t want to do research just for the sake of doing research. W want to do research because we want it to lead to something. We want it to lead to a solution. But we have to make sure that that solution is going to be successful and sustainable. And the only way that we can do that is if we continue to implement those evaluation methods throughout the process. That is super important.


And for those who may be doing research, or working in programs, or whatever, it’s really important to make sure that you start thinking. You don’t wait till the end of whatever you’re doing to start thinking about evaluation. You think about that on the frontend.


[00:17:09] AA: Oh, yes.


[00:17:11] JW: In your planning stages. Because if you don’t have the data to understand what makes your program successful or whatever you’re doing successful, you’re going to get to the end and be like, “Oh, we need data.” It’s too late. It’s too late.


[00:17:23] AA: Yup. Yeah.


[00:17:25] JW: You have to be thinking about these things at the beginning. And that’s a mistake that a lot of people tend to make when they’re doing research or evaluation, is they don’t think about how are we going to measure the success of this thing before –


[00:17:40] AA: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Especially, also, putting my health educator hat on, you always want to evaluate your program. That should be the first thing with any program that’s being implemented. You want it to be evaluated because you want to keep improving it year-by-year, month-by-month or whatever the timeline is.


And I also want to note that you can be both. You can be both a researcher and an evaluator. You don’t necessarily have to pick one or the other. You can be bold. You just have to have a fundamental understanding about what – depending on the clients, or the community members, or even students that come to you asking you certain questions related to public health, you want to have a clear understanding that public health research is one thing. And then public health evaluation, or just evaluation overall, is completely different. But those two can work together in tandem. You don’t have to pick both. That’s something I definitely wanted to let the audience know.


Any students, just wanted to let you know, if you want to be in public health, and if you want to be in research and you want to go into evaluation, you can do both. You don’t necessarily have to pick.


[00:19:05] JW: Yes, you can do all the things if you want to.


[00:19:07] AA: You can.


[00:19:07] JW: As long as you know what you’re doing. There is no issue there. You can definitely – because we need people who have a diverse skill set who know what they are doing and know the difference between research and evaluation. Let us not even get into assessment. Because assessment is different from research and evaluation. That might be another episode.


[00:19:26] AA: Oh, yes.


[00:19:29] JW: Because those are all totally different things.


[00:19:30] AA: Yeah, they are not intertwined. There’s no intermingling. They all work in tandem. But they are all three separate things. Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned assessment. Because that could definitely be another episode.


[00:19:45] JW: Yep. Yep. That is a whole other episode. But I do want to ask. I know you mentioned about kind of how you got into public health. And since we’re on the research topic, what was it that specifically got you into the research side of public health? Was there a specific event or something that happened that got you into the public health research side of things?


[00:20:05] AA: Yeah, absolutely. I will say one of my professors, Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha, she was very instrumental in my public health research interest and evaluation interest. She took me in because she was the only black female researcher at my alma mater at the time that I really wanted to work with.


I saw her resume. I saw the different research projects that she was on and I said I want to work with her. Because I know that she will guide me into all of things public health research evaluation. Shout out to Dr. AO, Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha. She has been instrumental in my passion and interest and continued evolvement and journey with public health. Whether that’s in education. Whether that’s in research. Whether that’s in evaluation.


I’m also honestly trying to move away a little bit from that typical health education standard that sometimes I feel like I feel kind of pushes on to people. And I also feel like, as great as CHES and MCHES are, I also feel like it’s important to have transferable skills, like data skills, technical skills, communication and public speaking skills. Because those really makeup, I would argue, all of the things necessary for you to be successful in a public health career.


Not completely dismissing education, because I think education and community engagement, that’s hard work that sometimes can be very thankless work. And I want to shout out to all the health educators who are doing the work. All the community engagement experts who are doing the work. Because that is not easy. It is not easy getting up going to different communities telling them about various Health topics. And it’s not on people’s minds. So I don’t want to dismiss that at all.


But what I’m also saying is it’s also important to have those data skills, those transferable skills, those communication and public speaking skills. Because sometimes that is required. Especially, let’s say, if you did a wonderful research project and you decide it to, “You know what? I think I want to submit this at a conference.” Let’s say APHA or SOPHE. And your abstract gets accepted.


Okay. As the public health professional, now you get a chance to use your communication and public speaking skills to really articulate to those who are not familiar with your topic why they should be interested in. Why should they listen to what you have to say about this topic?


And if you do not necessarily have those skill sets, I would encourage everybody to learn how to speak in front of people. Because it is a game changer. I still sometimes struggle speaking in front of people. That is an everyday struggle that I try to work with on a daily basis. But I am working on it.


And even writing. Sometimes content writing. Sometimes writing can be stressful. What you have in your mind and what you put on paper, and then you give to somebody else and then they come back with all these red marks, black marks, blue marks. It’s like, “Oh, wait a minute. I thought I was a good writer. But I’m not articulating certain things. Or I am not putting it in a plain language framework so it will be easier for people to understand.”


[00:24:07] JW: Right. And being able to write for different audiences. Because you might have something that you write for an academic journal. And you can’t bring that same thing to the community and say, “Hey, here. These are our findings.”


[00:24:19] AA: Yeah, they will look at it as, “What is this? I don’t understand this. There are too many words. There’s lots of jargon. Why are you giving me this paper that I’m never going to read? Because it’s not speaking to me. I don’t resonate with this.”


[00:24:32] JW: Yes. Definitely having those skills. And I like to call them superpowers. Like you start developing your public health superpowers. It’s a game-changer for sure. Because you’re able to do so much more and bring so much more to whatever it is you’re doing, your job, whatever opportunities you’re doing. If you have your own public health consulting business or whatever. There’s so much more you can do when you start developing those superpowers.


And the other thing that I wanted to mention that – when you were talking about your mentor. And you said you looked at the resume. You looked at what was being done and you said, “I want you. I want you to guide me and [inaudible 00:25:09].”


[00:25:10] AA: Yes.


[00:25:11] JW: And I think sometimes as students, especially when you’re feeling so lost and confused, it can feel intimidating to ask someone who is a senior researcher or who’s been in the field for a long time to say, “Hey, can you help me with –” but don’t be scared. Don’t be scared to ask.


The worst thing they could tell you is no. And if they said no, that is not the right person for you. There are other people out here who will be glad to help you, and mentor you and guide you through this process. Because we need each other. You can’t do it by yourself. Well, I mean, I guess you could. But it’d be really hard.


[00:25:47] AA: You could. But you won’t get anywhere. Listen. Full transparency. When I was looking for jobs, it was a struggle. I had to wait six months. And LaTonya Bynum, she is God sent. If I’m being completely frank, I do not believe I would be on my career journey. Like looking for jobs, improving skill set, improve – like really learning about what other skills that I would need, honestly, to transition from the standard public health education into possibly like data analytics or health policy without LaTonya Bynum’s encouragement, words of affirmation. She is amazing. I would encourage all listeners to look at LaTonya Bynum’s website.


She had resume, cover letter. She got me together. She got me together. And I was able to land my first job right out of grad school. Because I immediately transitioned from undergrad right into grad school. And I thought I didn’t really have work experience.


And LaTonya, she told me, “No. No. No. Your internships – don’t say it was an internship. Change it into an actual job title that you thought was relevant to your internship. And also, any volunteer opportunities that you have. Put that on the resume.”


And she will guide you on how to create the necessary language needed to possibly land an interview and, fingers crossed, get the job. I definitely wanted to shout her out too.


[00:27:37] JW: Oh, yeah. Of course. LaTonya Bynum. Amazing wealth of information. She was the one who got me started on my entrepreneurship journey as well. Yeah, definitely shout her out for sure.


But that’s the thing. We have mentors. We have people who have guided us. We all need somebody who has been through it already. They have been through the warpath. They know all the things. They know what to expect. They know what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to just ask for help. And most times, most people are willing to help in some form or fashion. And if they’re not available to personally mentor you or guide you, they know somebody, or they know some resources, or whatever. But if you don’t ever ask, you won’t ever know.


[00:28:27] AA: Yeah. No. I think what you’re saying is it’s valuable and it speaks volumes. Because you can have more than one mentor. You don’t necessarily have to have that one mentor. You want to have between two or four mentors that really speak to the various different interests that you want to try to achieve in your professional and sometimes personal life too.


Because sometimes you may need help with finances. You might need help with relationship advice or just how to really connect with people. And I also think having sponsors, people that will go to certain rooms that you really want to be in and really speak on your behalf in a positive light. You want to have those sponsors. Because those sponsor others will possibly lead you into your next job opportunity or career path.


[00:29:26] JW: Yes. Absolutely. And I still have people today who I’ve met in undergrad or high school, or whatever who’s like, “Hey, I thought about you for this opportunity.” When you’re at the top of mind for people, like that’s the best position to be in. Absolutely. The best position to be in.


[00:29:44] AA: Oh, man. I feel like we can talk about this for hours.


[00:29:47] JW: Yeah. I’m feeling you. It’s just nothing like having a good quality network. And that’s the thing that I try to tell people all the time. It doesn’t matter how many people you have in your network. If they’re not quality connections, if they are not quality professional relationships, it’s not going to matter. You can have a thousand people who you are connected to. And if you’re not at top of mind for any of them because you’re not connecting with them regularly, you’re not talking to them regularly, you don’t have a relationship with them, it’s not going to matter.


If you have five people who you are constantly engaging with them and you know them or you’ve been mentored by them, you never had to worry. You will never have to worry about anything. Definitely being mindful of how do we build those professional relationships especially when it comes to research. People are always getting grants for having different projects or different opportunities that are coming up. And so, when you’re connected to the right people in the right spaces, those opportunities will come. Absolutely come.


[00:30:53] AA: Oh, they absolutely will. They absolutely will. I mean, you said it all. You said it all. I have nothing else to add.


[00:31:00] JW: Well, going on from that, we will start wrapping up our conversation. And so, I’ve got one last question for you. And that question is what brings you joy in your work?


[00:31:14] AA: Ooh, that’s such a beautiful question. What really gives me joy is seeing how the work that I do really makes an impact. Whether that’s on a personal level, community level or even on a policy level. That is something that brings me so much joy. And also, really engaging with students engaging, with professionals. Even college mates that I went to school with. Getting to like really help them on their journey and really asking those questions as to why come to me of all people? And then, also, what are you trying to gain from it?


I would say, in terms of joy, really just making a direct impact. Whether that’s indirect or direct through individual relationships or even on the bigger level when it comes to policy. And that’s something I would like to transition to. Because I’m very passionate about health policy. Specifically, when it comes to issues related to maternal health, mental health in our communities.


And also, I would add in HIV, AIDS, as well. Because I think there’s still lots of stigma around especially mental health and HIV education. Although, some progress has been made. That stigma is still very much there. We don’t have enough mental health professionals of color that look like the communities that they come from or the people that are in the professional field. Or even in these professional organizations that frankly tend to be very white. And I would say mid to career-level.


And so, if you are a young black woman, young black man, young person of color trying to navigate into certain spaces and you get roadblocks or you get pushback, that can be devastating. But overall, I try to find joy in everything that I do.


And I also want to add a caveat that I try not to make my career part of my identity. And I think sometimes we, as public health professionals, we let our careers define our identity. And I really try my hardest to distinguish those two. Yes, I am a public health professional. I do research. I evaluate. I’m an educator. But that’s not solely who I am as an individual. I have other aspects. I’m a daughter. I’m a friend. I’m a homie. I’m such a good person to – not even good. I’m a great person to hang out with and get to know.


But I try to really find that balance of work, personal life and finding – not even finding. Just really be in a joyous occasion in both my professional and my personal. And I know that was a long-winded answer. But I just had to get that in there.


[00:34:35] JW: No. No. It was good. It was good. And I think the other thing that we have to remember is that – and from my – the way I interpret joy, is that joy doesn’t mean that everything’s easy or everything’s happy-go-lucky, lucky all the time. There are going to be trials and tribulations. There are going to be challenges. This path of public health is not easy.


There’ll be things in your life that will be hard. But there are moments of hope. There are moments of light. There are moments of love that we can find in all of that hurt, pain, trauma, hardship, everything that’s going on. And when we start to find those things, find those moments of positivity, it makes the journey a little bit more bearable. You know what I mean?


[00:35:24] AA: Oh, yeah.


[00:35:25] JW: Like it makes the journey worth it, those small moments. I think that’s super important. And especially what you said about making sure that your career is not all of who you are. And I’m just reflecting on what you said because I was just like, “That was so good.” Who am I outside of being a public health researcher? And what does that look like?


And I think at the core of who we are as people who are really in this field is we love to serve. And serving people is who we are at our core. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it as a public health researcher, or professional, or whatever. But serving people brings me joy.


And that is a part of my identity. But if I did not have a public health job or whatever, like I could find a way to serve people. And it’s a part of my identity. I think really understanding what does joy mean to you. Joy might mean different things to different people. Figuring out what does that mean to you. And then what can you do in your capacity to contribute to your own joy and contribute to someone else’s joy? And I feel like if we had a little bit more of that mindset, the world might be a little bit of a better place.


[00:36:46] AA: Yeah. I agree. I mean, you said it. You have to find joy within yourself. Because if you’re seeking it from others, you’re never going to find it. It’s the same thing with happiness. Happiness is temporary. Joy is internal. Many people don’t realize that. But happiness is really – it’s a temporary thing. What brings you joy? That is everything. That’s your friends. Your family. Even some of your colleagues that share the same career interests and you enjoy being in community with them. Going to different fundraisers for events or topics that you’re really passionate about. That should bring you joy. Happiness, that is temporary.


[00:37:34] JW: Yes. I think that is a good note to wrap up on. That’s Public Health Joy. Now y’all know. If you didn’t know before. That’s why we don’t call it public health happiness. We call it public health joy. Because that’s that internal thing that’s going to get us through, see us through to the end of our journey, is focusing on those moments of hope, and light and joy.


Let’s talk a little bit about where listeners can find you. If they’re interested in talking more? Have questions? How can they get in touch?


[00:38:09] AA: I am on LinkedIn. I am also on Instagram as well. Those are the two places where you can find me. I’m also on Clubhouse. I don’t really use Clubhouse like that. But you can find me on there too.


[00:38:25] JW: Me either.


[00:38:25] AA: But I’m mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram.


[00:38:29] JW: Awesome. Well, thank you, Araba, for your words of wisdom, for sure. Sharing your experience. It has been an amazing conversation. And this is going to wrap up this episode of The Public Health Joy podcast.


[00:38:45] AA: Thank you so much, Dr. Washington, for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation.


[00:38:50] JW: Absolutely. and I look forward to the next one.


[00:38:53] AA: Likewise.




[00:38:55] JW: I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit This is where research meets relationship. And I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy podcast.



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