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Public Health Honcho

Olivia Thompson, public health game changer

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In addition to teaching in the College of Charleston’s new Public Health Program, Professor Olivia Thompson – a 1999 alumna – is involved in a wide range of initiatives, from establishing a farm-to-school program that currently spans Charleston’s tri-county area (it will ultimately be statewide) to helping to introduce the College’s new tobacco-free policy.

To support her work in these areas, Thompson has helped secure significant grant funding from such sources as Boeing and the Centers for Disease Control. “When I came to the College to teach, my goal was to educate the next generation of public health leaders, and also create programs, policies and initiatives designed to prevent and control chronic diseases such as cancers, heart disease and stroke, diabetes and obesity. Admittedly, these goals are ambitious, but we’ve assembled some genuinely committed partners, including public health students at the College.”

One such individual is, Natasha Pavlovich, a 2013 graduate in public health. Pavlovich participated in a year-long fellowship (funded through Boeing’s support of the farm-to-school initiative) that gave her excellent preparation for graduate study. “As a public health fellow,” Pavlovich explained, “I’ve had the opportunity to develop a keen awareness of the impact of experiential learning on children’s nutritional, behavioral and cognitive health. That background will help me better execute my future role as a public health professional bent on improving community health through school-based interventions.”

In the meantime, Thompson is charging ahead on a variety of other initiatives that seek to improve public health systems at both the state and local levels. Through her work, she’s helping to make South Carolina a healthier and more economically viable state.