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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Morgan Clennin

May 1, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, 

A fortunate pairing with an insightful academic advisor during her undergraduate exercise science program at Truman State University in her native Missouri and a Health Promotion and Fitness internship at the Mayo Clinic sparked Morgan Clennin’s interest in pursuing a career in public health. “Suddenly I found myself looking at health from a new perspective; most importantly I realized the importance of prevention,” explains Clennin, who is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Exercise Science with an emphasis in Health Aspects of Physical Activity. “My interests shifted from examining the physiological mechanisms that influence health to understanding the larger role the environment plays in shaping health at the individual and population level.”

To further these interests, Clennin attended Saint Louis University to earn a Master of Public Health degree. In addition to her background in exercise science and physical activity, she developed a specialty in epidemiology through an epidemiology emphasis in her master’s program, an Epidemiologist Fellowship with the United States Army Public Health Command’s Injury Prevention Program and intensive training in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Summer Institute program at John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

During her masters’ program, Clennin also developed a passion for research and decided that she would continue on to pursue a doctoral degree in public health as well. When selecting an institution for this degree, she believes the University of South Carolina provided a natural fit. “It was clear from the beginning that the Arnold School of Public Health’s doctoral degree in exercise science presented an ideal academic setting to further my educational pursuits,” Clennin says.

She particularly valued the Health Aspects of Physical Activity program’s unique quality of being one of the few institutions that would allow her to build on her foundation in both public health and exercise science. “For me, this dual focus was a key feature that I wished to incorporate into my doctoral studies,” Clennin says. “The strong faculty, high research productivity, and top program ranking were also attractive attributes of the program.”

Since joining the Arnold School in 2012, Clennin has advanced her research skills through various research projects, including a graduate assistantship with the Children’s Physical Activity Research Group. Most recently, her interests in policy, system and environmental influences on physical activity have led her to examine the effects of social and environmental factors on child and adolescent physical activity behaviors. Clennin is also interested in disparities in physical activity and social justice issues contributing to these inequities.

She is also a member of several public health organizations and works with the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. Clennin’s various projects and determined work ethic have earned her the Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellowship and resulted in four peer-reviewed publications as well as numerous invited presentations. She credits several influential mentors, such as exercise science Professor Russell Pate, as being integral to her success. “Through their guidance and support, I developed a passion for public health research – one that is still driving me today,” Clennin says. “I am extremely grateful to each of them for the countless hours they invested in my development as a public health researcher.”

Clennin encourages anyone interested in creating a real and lasting impact on population health to consider pursuing a public health degree. “It’s important to find a supportive environment that will facilitate your growth and development as a student and researcher,” she says. “Surround yourself with a strong mentor and experts in the field who will inspire you and challenge you on a daily basis.”

Clennin’s goals include a postdoctoral fellowship to further develop her research skills followed by a faculty position at a research-based institution. “Ultimately, my long term career goal is to identify evidence-based policy, systems and environmental changes that promote health-enhancing behaviors, such as physical activity, in an effort to improve population health and reduce health disparities,” Clennin says.