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Arnold School of Public Health


Public health graduate to increase quality of healthcare patient self-management skills in Lancaster County

September 12, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Myrtle Beach, native Irini Guda packed her undergraduate years full of high quality experiences, and it’s paid off. The recent public health graduate now holds the title of project director for the Transitional Care/Chronic Management Initiative in Lancaster County.

In her new role, Guda will work to improve the quality of health care in the county and the self-management skills of patients with complex care needs. The Initiative uses patient-centered programs, transition coaches, and improved coordination between providers to provide a low-cost, low-intensity, evidence-based intervention that aims to reduce hospital readmissions and allow patients to confidently transition from the hospital to their homes. Guda will serve as the primary point of contact for the Initiative, helping to ensure that the program runs smoothly and to optimize patient outcomes.

Majoring in public health has shown me that no matter what path I chose to pursue within the field, my ultimate goal is always to improve health conditions among populations.

-Irini Guda, Public Health Graduate

“I’ve always had the desire to work in a health-related field because I really enjoy helping others reach their health goals and seeing them overcome tough health situations,” says Guda, who chose UofSC due to its many academic and professional development opportunities. “Majoring in public health has shown me that no matter what path I chose to pursue within the field, my ultimate goal is always to improve health conditions among populations. My current job allows me to do just that.”

During her undergraduate program, Guda found mentors in instructor Charlotte Galloway and associate dean for undergraduate student affairs Sara Corwin. “Dr. Galloway, my advisor, always offered the best advice and made me feel at ease when I was stressed out and felt like my world was falling apart,” says Guda. “Dr. Corwin was also a great mentor because she pushed me to be the best version of myself and introduced me to great opportunities.”

The Deans List recipient was so immersed in her program of study that she was selected to serve as a Public Health Ambassador during Admitted Student Weekends and talk about her undergraduate experience with incoming freshmen. Guda also developed a passion for health care and policy—interests she further developed as an intern for Senator Tim Scott through the South Carolina Washington Semester Program. She won first place in the Discover USC Graduation with Leadership Distinction: Oral Presentation category after sharing her experiences in Washington D.C., a place she’d like to return to at some point in the future to engage in public health projects or health policy work. 

You will only grow and obtain new perspectives if you step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk.

-Irini Guda, Public Health Graduate

Guda’s other public health interests include child and maternal health, school nutrition and increasing physical activity among youth. She gained experience in these areas through her work with the PLAY (Positive Leisure Activities for Youth) program with the Norman Arnold Center Boys and Girls Club (the same Norman Arnold for whom the Arnold School of Public Health is named).

This past summer, Guda served as a research assistant for the Arnold School’s Core for Applied Research and Evaluation, conducting surveys and evaluating data for multiple projects. Working with health services policy and management clinical assistant professor Kelli Kenison, Guda learned data evaluation methods and analysis skills as well as how to develop relationships with co-workers and partnering organizations.

“Dr. Kenison has such a caring personality and strong work ethic, and I am so fortunate to have worked with her,” says Guda. “She continuously supported me in my endeavors and has taught me the importance of developing strong personal relationships.”

Guda’s best advice for students is to take risks and engage in unfamiliar experiences. “You will only grow and obtain new perspectives if you step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk,” says Guda, referencing her decisions to participate in the Washington Semester Program and work for the Core for Applied Research and Evaluation as examples. “With each risk I took during my undergraduate years, I’ve gained great knowledge about my passions and myself. You never know if you’ll enjoy a field or a program unless you try it.”