WVU research opportunities enhance alumna’s public health career

As one of the top research institutions in the nation, West Virginia University provides students with invaluable learning experiences and the opportunity to create meaningful impact. Its ranking of R1, or very high research activity, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education places the University in the most elite category for research-focused institutions.

That commitment to research – paired with strong academic programs and collaborations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – drew Yuni Tang to Morgantown for the Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences program. Now, the School of Public Health alumna is using her training to improve health outcomes as a postdoctoral research associate.

As a first-generation student, Yuni balanced the challenges of navigating the complexities of college life by seeking out and utilizing support from mentors, advisers and peer networks. Expert faculty working in the field of injury prevention, who became mentors throughout her journey, were an important part of selecting WVU to further her education and help accomplish her research and career goals.

“During my Ph.D. journey, my goal was to be a principal investigator, and I was eager to get more research training,” she recalled. “Being the first in my family to attend college, even get my Ph.D., is a source of immense pride.

“I feel privileged to have worked with some excellent faculty members, especially with my mentor and committee chair, Dr. Toni Rudisill, and my dissertation committee members, Drs. Christiaan Abildso, Christa Lilly and Erin Winstanley. They ‘forced’ me to think more critically and trained me as an independent researcher.”

Yuni focused her studies in epidemiology, addressing driving after cannabis use among U.S. college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the process, she gained experience in managing surveys, data management and data analyses. The program offered both theoretical knowledge and practical skills including statistical analysis, research methodologies and public health prevention.

Following completion the Ph.D. program in May 2023, Yuni accepted the position of postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. Her role allows her to apply epidemiologic surveillance methods to improve traffic safety, particularly related to the impact of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving among young people.

“My role combines research, data analysis, project management and collaboration with various stakeholders to improve public health outcomes in the area of traffic safety.”

Combined with her Master of Public Health from Ohio State University and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Hebei Medical University in China, Yuni’s studies in public health have provided her with a broad skillset to excel in the multidisciplinary field.

“Developing skills in statistics, data analysis, epidemiology and communication can be highly beneficial,” she said. “Staying informed about the latest developments and continuing to learn is important since the field of public health is always evolving with new research, technologies and methodologies.”

Yuni’s dedication to the field has led to her research being published in BMC Research Notes, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Appalachian Health, Pharmaceutical Medicine, Traffic Injury Prevention, and Drugs and Alcohol Dependence Reports.

“For me, public health is a vital field that focuses on improving the health and well-being of people at the community levels. Public health impacts every aspect of society, and it's a field that not only saves lives but also enhances the quality of life, making it a critical and rewarding area of study and work.”



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WVU School of Public Health