The graduate program at the Colorado School of Public Health offers countless ways through which students can tailor their individual experiences. In addition to the school offering multiple trainings, Graduate Research Assistantships, and ways to enhance coursework, students also frequently seek ways to get involved across other departments and organizations on campus (and in the community). These extra-curricular opportunities provide varying perspectives and experiences. Two current students illustrate just how diverse these experiences can be. A first year in the Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration, Haley Moss presented original research last month at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Annual conference in San Diego, CA.   Jamila Bryant, a second year in the Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration, was recently involved in a campaign through the veteran’s organization on campus to raise suicide awareness.

Haley works as a GRA for Dr. Kaigang Li through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. She is assisting Dr. Li with a research project examining the number of US adults at risk for contracting cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years. “We used the pooled-cohort equations created by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association to determine risk based on factors such as smoking status, cholesterol level, diabetes status, and age,” Haley said of her work.

The conference attracted professionals studying all aspects of behavioral medicine, and included hundreds of presentations on an array of topics. There was a strong emphasis this year on the usage of data generated from wearable fitness trackers (such as the Apple Watch, or FitBit). “As someone currently doing research on large-scale data sets, if was great to hear from my professional colleagues about the techniques they’re using as well as the challenges they’re facing.”

Jamila is a current service member in the Air Force Reserves and has been involved with the veteran’s group at CSU throughout her MPH experience, seeing the group as an opportunity to give back to the community. Recently, Jamila was included in a video disseminated across campus and to other universities raising awareness about suicide prevention. The video was also used to promote Operation Bear Hug Challenge, an event on campus to raise suicide awareness. The theme was “You Are Not Alone”, emphasizing ways to recognize someone who may be suicidal and how to help them.  “Suicide is a pressing issue in the veteran population. As a service member, I know some of the challenges and concerns you go through and wanted to support a good cause,” said Jamila.  (You can watch the video here.)

Jamila suggests that anyone interested in getting involved in supporting veteran mental health can start by visiting the veterans office or dropping in with other veteran organizations across campuses to see what help is needed. “We are losing too many people to suicide every year and this is a public health concern.  Life happens to everyone, and affects each one of us differently.  In these moments we can always be the best friend [sister, daughter, etc,] we can be, and let them know they are not alone, because you never know when you will save a life,” Jamila said.